Review: Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump)

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Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump) screens at Aperture 2 on April 2 at 4:30 p.m., April 3 at 4:30 p.m. and April 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Mere miles from the cactus-speckled foothills of Mount Gourougou on the northern Moroccan coast lies Melilla, a tiny Spanish city embedded in Africa. For thousands of migrants hiding in the foothills of the mountain, fleeing unrest and poverty in their home countries, it’s a chance at asylum.

All that stands between them and freedom are three fences.

Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump) is a purposefully unique take on documenting the Africa-to-Europe migrant experience. Directors Estephan Wagner and Moritz Siebert initially choose longtime ‘jumper’ Abou Bakar Sidibé as their sponsored photographer for an authentic point of view; through filming, Sidibé evolves into co-director. Wagner and Siebert’s fingerprints on the film are invisible. Shaky hand-camera footage juxtaposes moments of levity with Sidibé’s Malian camp buddies against panning Mediterranean sunset views full of tangible longing.

As intended, the story inevitably brings other stories of migrant tenacity to mind, such as that of Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, who swam for three hours pushing a capsizing raft of Syrian refugees to safety in the Aegean Sea. Sidibé and his comrades’ quotidian perseverance is no less inspiring as they scramble over fences while police close in, each attempt as hopeful and terrifying as the last.

Though worthwhile ideas about the meaning behind suffering and the importance of freedom are presented in Les Sauteurs, some questions remain. Women are noticeably absent in the camp, leaving the viewer to wonder what cultural norms prevent sub-Saharan African women from having their own chance at a new beginning as a fortunate few men manage to claim their freedom.

Joanna Rutter

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