The image of the feeble pirogue (the film’s featured boat) floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a perfect metaphor to describe my abandoned interest towards Moussa Touré’s drama La Pirogue.
I wanted to like Touré’s film. A title card leading to the end credits dedicating the film to those who have made the trek – and may have died – from Africa to Europe to seek a better life made my dislike towards La Pirogue even tougher to hold.
But, alas, Touré’s well-intentioned film has a hard time resonating and keeping our attention because of how dry it is. Ironic for a movie that takes place almost entirely in the water.
The problems start with the acting and end with how the filmmaker has directed the film. Scenes leading up to the merciless adventure are fairly interesting as movie goers are introduced to characters like captain Baye Laye (played by Souleymane Seye Ndiaye) and scenes showing the quiet arrangement of the trip are intriguing. But, once the pirogue embarks, the hard-working but stiff ensemble has a terribly hard time keeping the film afloat; often competing with the film’s slow burn suspense.
I won’t give up all hope on these performers though. These actors may have been compatible and effective in another movie that didn’t ask them to carry a large mass of the story on their shoulders while acting against a bland backdrop. The ensemble even show a glimmer of strength once the boat starts to hit inevitable natural elements.
You can see the ache and the panic as the team faces a treacherous storm and key members start to parish under the unbearably hot sun and lack of nourishment. But, because there’s been an unsustainable emotional connection to the story and to these characters, you can’t help but feel like you’re watching an uninvolving and plain reenactment with not a whole lot to say.
The actors only show more range because the stakes have been raised for their roles, but that same adequacy needed to be shown more during those bobbing days at sea. Maybe then, movie goers could’ve felt more sympathy towards this biopic and its players.
La Pirogue had me traveling back in time to think of other bottle films that captured the loneliness, hard drivenness, and fading confidence La Pirogue should’ve been effortlessly portraying. It’s a film that made me step back and consider re-watching Ang Lee’s award winning Life of Pi for a second time. I wasn’t a fan of Lee’s CGI-heavy adaptation on my initial view, but at least he was able to think of imaginable ways to make me keep watching. It was a skill that filmmaker Moussa Touré seriously lacked.