Title: Samba
Director: Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
Starring: Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim, Izia Higelin.

While watching the latest film of the ‘Intouchables’ directors you will be pervaded by a sense of déjà vu. But whereas the delicate subject matter of the friendship between a quadriplegic and his assistant was attenuated by unpolitically correct humour, ‘Samba’ doesn’t seem to have the same courage in mocking cultural identity. Racism turns out to be a more sensitive topic to fool around with. Hence, at times the movie seems to be filled with an excessive dose of moral and benevolent behaviour.

The French dramedy by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano tells the story of Samba (Omar Sy), a migrant from Senegal to France, and his plight to find a job in Paris, without having the proper papers to stay in the country. His encounter with immigration case worker Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) will expectedly give way to a blooming romance. Whereas the only comic relief  of the flick comes from the charismatic Tahar Rahim, playing an Algerian pretending to be Brazilian, who will become Samba’s friend.

The movie – that premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival – marks the second collaboration between Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano and Omar Sy, after 2012’s ‘The Intouchables.’

The message we are left with is truly noble, but a little rhetorical and preachy: tolerance and respect must be shown to those on the lower rungs of the social ladder. Nakache and Toledano played it safe this time, how can you contest immigrants who flee from countries at war and try to pursue a better life in democratic countries, searching respectable jobs? But more than this, the weakness of the movies lies in its attempt to mishmash too many genres losing a global focus. The issue of immigration and unemployment are smothered by the more commercial component of the platonic romance between Alice (recovering from a burnout), and Samba struggling to stay in the country. At least the pace of the political drama, sprinkled with some humour, is cadenced by an enticing soundtrack of the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi.

Technical: B
Acting: B
Story: C+
Overall: B-
Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi


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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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