L’Histoire de Souleymane: A Refugee Story Set in Paris

L’Histoire de Souleymane: A Refugee Story Set in Paris
The film elicited a teary, 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes Critics and audiences at Cannes are notoriously ruthless; it’s not unusual for someone to “boo” at the screen or walk out from a film that isn’t holding their attention. That’s why it’s even more special when a film is a home run and wins over every single person in the cinema, which is precisely what happened during the premiere screening of L’Histoire de Souleymane, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival this year. After the film’s premiere, there was a 10-minute standing ovation for the cast and the director inside the Debussy Theater. Tissues were handed to the film’s star, actor Abou Sangare, who portrayed Souleymane to much positive reception. The film’s director, Boris Lojkine, looked on proudly. This is Lojkine’s third film. “L’Histoire de Souleymane” L’Histoire de Souleymane is a story about survival in Paris, showing a different side of the City of Light. It’s not the Paris typically portrayed onscreen; it’s a grittier, scarier Paris. It’s a Paris where people – refugees, immigrants, asylum-seekers –break their back to hustle and earn a living, often at great lengths that even risk their livelihood. The titular character Souleymane (Abou Sangare) is a 20-something man from Guinea who escaped his home country to create a better life for his mother, who is mentally ill. He is working illegally as a bicycle food delivery person. Souleymane pays his friend from Cameroon to rent his food delivery account, so he can earn money which will go towards the documents from a Guinean friend which will help him secure asylum in France. Then, he’ll be able to legally work in France and send money home to his mom. “L’Histoire de Souleymane,” starring Abou Sangaré, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Anne McCarthy Souleymane is handsome; he has a girlfriend back in Guinea who is tired of waiting for him. She tells him over the phone, after he arrives at the homeless shelter where he sleeps each night, that an engineer proposed marriage to her. “You’re not going to like what I’m going to say,” Souleymane says to her, when she asks him what she thinks. Souleymane is a homeless delivery person who can barely rub two Euros together; he loves this woman and so he urges her to make a better life for herself than the one he can offer her. This is just one of the many heartbreaking moments from this fast-paced film which takes place over the course of two days. Souleymane is doing his best at every turn, but his best isn’t enough at times. He’s also been through trauma, and that manifests in different ways, like in his temper when the delivery order isn’t ready and when a woman refuses to accept her bag of food after Souleymane and his bike were hit by a car and the food bag became mangled. “L’Histoire de Souleymane”

Lead photo credit : "L’Histoire de Souleymane" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Anne McCarthy

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.