Jolly Cinema > 16:00


Introduced by

Ross Lipman (restoration curator) and Maxime Grember (Cinémathèque Afrique / Institut Français)


Monday 26/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The directorial debut of Desiré Ecaré, who, together with Georges Keita, Timité Bassori and Henri Duparc was one of the trailblazers for the emergence of an Ivorian cinema. Concerto pour un exil is the first in the “castigare ridendo mores” series, a sort of humanistic comedy in which the director wanted to depict ironically the social and psychological alienation of African youth in France at the end of the Sixties. The same intent would reappear in his subsequent À nous deux, France (1970) and Visages de femmes (1985), which would earn the recognition of French critics. Born in a suburb of Abidjan, he arrived in Paris in 1961 thanks to a study grant. His formative experience was with Jean Marie Serreau’s troupe Le Toucan, with whom he would stage such plays as Aimé Césaire’s A Season in the Congo and Brecht’s The Exception and the Rule. During the same period, he graduated from IDHEC along with Henri Duparc, who would also play a role in Concerto pour un exil. Ecaré shot the film making use of notes in a notebook and improvising with the non-professional cast and crew. “I did not want to make an ethnographic film about exile. I wanted to speak about my generation. A generation which every day resists cultural assimilation and knows that it has no future in its own country. A disenchanted generation, but also a deeply cultured and courageous one.”

Cecilia Cenciarelli

Cast and Credits

M.: Desiré Ecaré. F.: Maurice Perrimond, Tristan Burgess, Toussaint Bruschini. Mus.: Gilles Dayvis, Pierre Cheriza. Int.: Hervé Denis (studente africano / sindacalista), Claudia Chazel (moglie dello studente), Henri Duparc (amico dello studente), Sokou Camara (ambasciatore), Bitty Moro (Yao, lo spazzino), Michael Lonsdale (attore teatrale). Prod.: Argos Films, Les Films de la Lagune. DCP. D.: 30’. Bn.


Film Notes

A tracking shot follows a young man as he walks along the side of a gently sloping road. Hands in his pockets, he proceeds barefoot with a pair of Converse on his head. Ambient sounds and the barking of an off-screen dog are swallowed up by the sound of percussion and tribal song. The camera gradually approaches him as he turns around and signals to thumb a ride. Over his extreme close-up, the soundtrack blends magnificent tribal harmonies, Yoruba percussion and the sound of a harpsichord playing Henry Purcell’s Ground in C Minor. The music here introduces the story’s two locations (United States and Nigeria), whose images (in the present and in the form of memories and flashbacks) alternate throughout the film, mapping the protagonist Gabriel’s identity. The rest of soundtrack continues to make use of this process of synthesis; like his better-known brother Peter, the composer and polyinstrumentalist David Schickele entrusts it with the task of articulating and supporting the film’s cultural and racial discourse, also on an emotional level.
“1968: Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Bobby Hutton are amongst the recent dead”; this text is superimposed as we again follow the young man from behind; then, in a parallel montage with two children in a forest carrying jars on their heads, we read “In Nigeria the civil war is entering its second year and no end is in sight”. The white smoke of the factories against the blinding light of the morning skies allows us to glimpse the outline of San Francisco while the young man finally finds someone to give him a lift. We are barely into the third minute of the film when a caustic dialogue with the biker – half-way between Sembène’s Borom Sarret and a parody of Easy Rider – subverts the tone of the prologue. With one eye on cinéma vérité, the European new waves and early Cassavetes, and the other on African pioneers like Sembène, Ecaré and Hondo, Schickele not only condemns the reactionary and racist America which will later frame Gabriel on the slightest of pretexts, but also the liberal America of progressive intellectuals who quote McLuhan and Malraux but lapse into rhetoric and misunderstand the deeper meaning of human experience. With irony, poetry and a delicate touch, Bushman leads us into the darkness of the beginnings of an odyssey. And for days, you are unable to think of anything else.

Cecilia Cenciarelli

Cast and Credits

Scen.: David Schickele. F.: David Myers. M.: Jennifer Chinlund, David Schickele. Int.: Paul Eyam Nzie Okpokam (Bushman), Elaine Featherstone (Alma), Lothario Lotho (fratello di Alma), Ann Scofield (ragazza conosciuta al bar), Jack Nance (Felix), David Schickele (Mark), Donna Michelson (Diane), Patrick Gleeson (Marty). Prod.: The Bushman Company, The American Film Institute. DCP. D.: 73’. Bn.