La Pirogue takes you on a familiar journey.
LA PIROGUE (Moussa Touré). 87 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (August 16) at TIFF Bell Lightbox. For times, see listings. Rating: NN
Senegalese emigrants hop on a wooden boat - La Pirogue of the title - and set out for a new life in Spain in a film that charts familiar territory.
The only thing that distinguishes director Moussa Touré's immigration drama from its predecessors are the specific cultural flavours systematically applied to each character and the journey as a whole. The 31 passengers on board the colourful vessel are representative of West Africa's diverse languages, religions and sensibilities, from old tribal leaders to young would-be musicians rocking urban gear.
A significant payday for his family persuades the reluctant captain (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye), a simple fisherman, to lead the journey. He holds some choice superstitions but is less dreamy than his fellow travellers. Recognizing all the dangers at sea, which could be as simple as a faulty motor, he doesn't even bother concocting plans for his arrival in Spain, since the chances of landing are said to be one in 10.
That detailed set-up gives way to standard setbacks. The storms, quarrels and casualties don't make any emotional waves since they are clinically checked off, as if the filmmakers themselves recognize the predictability of it all and would rather just hurry on to the gloomy finale we all see coming.