Caritas Migrant Home sits the place the semi-arid Sahel area provides method to the Sahara Desert, on the sting of the city sprawl of Gao, a city of greater than 85,000 inhabitants within the landlocked West African nation of Mali. However as the placement of Ousmane Samassékou’s unobtrusively observant “The Final Shelter,” the refuge can really feel far faraway from such grounded realities. With a gentle stream of vacationers passing briefly by, as a lot as the home is brick and mortar, it’s also a metaphor, for a form of mid-flight psychological state. On the sting of the center of nowhere, on the very entrance of the again of past, and solely 200 miles from Timbuktu — a reputation nonetheless outlined in English dictionaries as “essentially the most distant place possible” — the Migrant Home is a bodily and psychological relaxation cease for if you’re nowhere close to the place you’re going, however too far gone to return.
Samassékou’s method, impressed by an uncle who left for Germany 32 years in the past and vanished someplace en route, is itself distant. His voice isn’t heard, his presence by no means felt, there isn’t any scripted narration and no onscreen titling to introduce us to his topics. It’s solely by the way that we even be taught their names: Esther, a 16-year-old woman from Burkina Faso who goals of going to Algeria along with her companion, Kadi. Mariko, who has visions of a girl at his window, whom he desires to marry and convey with him to Europe. Natacha, a quiet and prayerful middle-aged girl has been at Caritas for 5 years — we’re by no means fairly positive why — passing the times taking part in chess and cube video games by herself. Even the Home’s genial supervisor, Eric Alain Kamdem, who greets the brand new arrivals, advises them, helps them with varieties and onward journey, cuts their hair and listens to their tales, is peripheral. In one other movie, his tireless work on the migrants’ behalf could be heroized.
However right here, the story is much less of 1 man’s endeavors than of the collective comings and goings and temporary encounters that occur between the Home’s institutional-aqua-blue partitions. Arrivals from Benin and Burkina Faso meet stranded vacationers from the cities of Bamako and Bordj Badji Mokhtar. They share the naked rooms, sleeping on skinny mattresses, pulling up plastic chairs into companionable knots across the TV to observe Rey Mysterio tackle one other WWE opponent. Generally they drink and chat collectively at evening outdoors; different instances they’ve informational talks that grow to be a form of group remedy. These on their approach out into the world are instructed cautionary tales by these on their approach again: “Higher a small job at dwelling than to chase huge delusions overseas,” says one. They mutter to one another about jihadists and the army, they draw makeshift maps in biro on scraps of paper marking one of the best ways to keep away from checkpoints and Al-Qaida strongholds.
Kamdem tries, not at all times efficiently, to get each to present only a single cellphone variety of a good friend or relative — many are distrustful. However a putting opening scene tells us what he wants these numbers for: The sandy floor outdoors Caritas can also be a graveyard. The numerous unclaimed our bodies of migrants now lie below pitiful makeshift mounds that stretch off into the space, marked solely by rusting indicators bearing little greater than a reputation and a spot — Ivory Coast, Guinea, Togo. For a lot too many almost nameless individuals, this place of non permanent respite turns into their place of everlasting relaxation.
At instances, the movie’s restraint can work towards it: There are such a lot of tales we’d like to grasp higher however that with out particular context appear slightly bewildering. However when Samassékou’s diffident digital camera sharpens its focus a second, it may yield a peculiar intimacy, like in the course of the exceptional soliloquy from Esther on the finish of the movie. In it, she explains her causes for deciding to proceed on to Algeria, however as she by no means meets the digital camera’s eye, it looks like she is speaking to herself, in an interior voice that’s poetic and unusual and wrenching.
And on the different finish of the size, there’s a second of grandeur. Over stark desert pictures, Samassékou layers the tales of the various company who’ve crossed the Sahara. At first it’s a palimpsest of voices describing the journey’s hellishness and the way it can drive you mad, nevertheless it builds and builds till it’s a choral roar of anguish. Simply as “The Final Shelter” has wealthy, soulful depths beneath a quiet floor, it suggests this human cacophony underlies the silence of the desert, half the primal scream and half the limitless, ongoing lament of the migrant, who solely briefly, in locations like Caritas, will get to attract breath.