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Exils Review

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Two lovers leave Europe and embark on a road trip across parts of Africa.

★★★★★

Retracing his own family’s steps, director Tony Gatlif deftly combines the personal with the universal in this consistently surprising road movie. As the barely acquainted lovers who impulsively set out from Paris to Algiers, Romain Duris and Lubna Azabal share temperamental and cultural contrasts that make them fascinating travelling companions (all the more so thanks to Gatlif’s evocative use of framing devices, landscape and vehicular perspective).

Azabal’s encounter with a Spanish stranger in a flamenco bar threatens their relationship, but they soon become as dependent upon each other as the migrant Africans they meet en route, who are amazed that they should want to abandon Europe for the continent they themselves can’t wait to leave behind. The soundtrack is superb, but the epiphanal Sufi ceremonial is less than convincing.

Audiovisually superb, this unconventional road movie tellingly highlights the cultural and socio-economic differences between Arabic Africa and Europe. But the central relationship occasionally feels as forced as the climactic bouts of post-colonial nostalgia and Sufi mysticism.

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