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Diego Star


From Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies to Kim Nguyen’s Rebelle by way of Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Inch’Allah, Quebec films have been taking us abroad in recent years. But first-time director Frédérick Pelletier borrows a page from Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar by observing a foreigner attempting to find his place in Quebec society. There is no mention of reasonable accommodation when veteran ship mechanic Traoré (Isaka Sawadogo) finds himself grounded in a Quebec port town after a malfunction aboard his vessel, the Diego Star. His bosses are trying to pass the blame to his team, but Traoré will have none of it. He tells an inspector about the poor state of the boat and his superiors’ lackadaisical approach to replacing parts. While things get sorted out, he and his fellow crew members are billeted with local residents. Traoré ends up with Fanny (Chloé Bourgeois), a tattooed and tough single mom of a baby boy. Both actors emit an engaging physicality: Sawadogo is a gentle giant whose downcast eyes speak volumes about his character’s hard life and family left behind in the Ivory Coast; relative newcomer Bourgeois keeps emotions hidden beneath an ice-cold exterior. They’re an unlikely duo, and it takes time for them to warm to each other — or, more pointedly, for Fanny to let Traoré in. Pelletier avoids the easy fix of romance, finding an understated narrative thrust in the burgeoning friendship between the two. Fanny works at the port cafeteria, a soul-crushing job whose effect is conveyed in the lifeless mumble she employs to announce the day’s lunch special. Traoré has a teenage son who has already left home, fuelling his fatherly empathy with his host’s plight. Though their paths converge in somewhat predictable fashion, Pelletier shows restraint in allowing their dynamic to develop naturally. They become close not through expository conversations about their respective histories, but by simply being around each other. Little gestures — a gift, a meal — bring their defences down, but there are other sources of tension. As the investigation into the cause of the ship’s mechanical problems evolves, Traoré finds himself in the line of fire. Pelletier’s nuanced — and, warning, slow-moving — film about cross-cultural human connection doubles as a commentary on the treatment of immigrant workers, specifically industrial seamen who appear to be ever receiving the short end of the stick. Allegiances are tested as things come to a crux. The director avoids easy answers, allowing life’s messy complexities to play themselves out in more realistic fashion, and leaving us with food for thought as the closing credits roll. Courtesy: T'Cha Dunlevy, Montreal GazetteOfficial Trailer
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Directed by: 
Frédérick Pelletier
Running Time: 
French with English Subtitles
Isaka Sawadogo, Chloé Bourgeois
Screenplay by: 
Frédérick Pelletier

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