Aujourd’hui (Tey) by Alain Gomis at the HFA
March 3, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
FILMMAKER IN PERSON
Directed by Alain Gomis. With Saul Williams, Djolof Mbengue, Anisia Uzeyman
France/Senegal 2012, 35mm, color, 86 min. French and Wolof with English subtitles
How would you spend your last day on earth if you knew exactly when your life would end? So asks Gomis in this gentle existential parable that finds a man given the knowledge of his death and the freedom to live his last hours exactly as he pleases. Taking almost mythological form, Aujourd’hui follows the course of this final day as its hero first stands before the judgment of family members and then steps out into the streets of Dakar animated by an intense appreciation of all that passes before his eyes and ears. For his lead actor, Gomis made the unexpected choice of American slam poet Saul Williams, whose inability to understand either French or Wolof makes hauntingly real his floating distance from the fleeting world and the flood of emotions, accusations and regrets that color his poignant encounters with family, friends and lovers. Embracing a kind of stream-of-consciousness flow as it wanders with Williams on an emotional itinerary, Aujourd’hui is also punctuated by intense documentary style—sequences that look beyond its death-driven hero to reveal enraged protesters against the corrupt presidency of Abdoulaye Wade. In these moments, Gomis seemingly refuses his own film’s Felliniesque oneirism by reminding us of the stark instability and injustice that has gripped Senegal in recent times.
Little Light (Petite Lumière)
Directed by Alain Gomis. With Assy Fall, Djolof Mbengue, Thierno Ndiaye
France/Senegal 2013, DCP, color, 15 min. French and Wolof with English subtitles
The films of Alain Gomis (b. 1972) define a richly cinematic mode of narrative portraiture. Each of his four features centers around willful characters overwhelmed by difficult circumstances that force them to question their place within a world that seems indifferent and even hostile to their plight. From the Senegalese graduate student in Gomis’ first film L’Afrance, who must decide whether to stay in Paris without papers, to the mother in his newest feature Félicité, whose desperate situation drives her to seek help from friends, family and strangers alike, Gomis’ protagonists suddenly find themselves radically disoriented, no longer able to find a stability within a place they once called home. Ultimately, L’Afrance and Félicité—as well as Andalucia and Aujourd’hui—expand to pointedly question the relationship of the individual and citizen to an uncaring state while also examining the tensions and contradictions of the multi-ethnic and multi-tribal local communities redefining French and African cities today. A fascination with the vitality and dangers of urban life gives Gomis’ films a distinct rhythm and energy as they poetically alternate between the almost stream-of-consciousness perspective of their drifting characters and raw, verité scenes of unruly, violent city streets.
Born in France into a Senegalese and Bissau-Guinean family, Alain Gomis has divided his films between France and Francophone Africa, offering a unique vista over the sharp differences and deep bonds that continue to define the relationship between Europe and its former colonies. In many ways the extreme sensitivity of his characters—who hear, touch and see their world with an acute yet wandering attention—embodies the same position and argument as Gomis’ humanist cinema, which gives dignity and moving voice to lives made difficult by socioeconomic and historical injustices while pointing to the world beyond his compelling characters and their urgent stories, toward that vital place glimpsed only from the edge of the story and frame.
Together with the Film Study Center and the McMillan-Stewart Foundation, the Harvard Film Archive is proud to welcome Alain Gomis as the winner of the Film Study Center’s 2018 Geneviève McMillan-Reba Stewart Fellowship in Distinguished Filmmaking. – Haden Guest, Director of the Harvard Film Archive
More details on all events with Alain Gomis here.