There’s a touch of magic realism in this poignant film, centred on an engaging black kid Youri (talented newcomer Alseni Bathily), who dreams of becoming an astronaut.
His home is a run-down block of 370 apartments on the outskirts of Paris, built in 1963 to house low-income families, and named Gagarine, after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who thrilled the world two years before by becoming the first man to reach outer space.
Half a century later the building, subsiding and past repair, is scheduled for destruction.
Young Youri has been abandoned by his mother and is desperate to save Gagarine from demolition. Shabby as it is, this is his home and his community.
He rallies his friends to try to repair the building, fixing the faulty wiring and replacing broken light fittings, but the authorities are unmoved. They give the occupants six months notice to quit.
Gradually all Youri’s neighbours move out, until he is left alone in the vast empty shell.
Clinging to his dreams of reaching the stars, he transforms his apartment, using a motley collection of salvaged gear, into his personal space capsule, complete with a thriving UV-lit garden.
French directors Fanny Liatard and Jeremy Trouilh have created a wonderful fantasy, culminating in the dramatic day when a huge crowd waits expectantly to see the enormous building explode.
Victor Seguin’s camera work is masterful, alternating between dreamy weightless sequences and gritty vision of Youri’s earthbound world.
Archival footage of Gagarin and his historic1961 space flight is woven in throughout the film.
In the lead-up to filming Liatard and Triouilh spent many months getting to know the occupants of Gagarine.
The film is a tribute to the marginalised communities who live in public housing but dream of something more.
Gagarine, part of Perth Festival’s LotteryWest film season, runs from Monday, March 15, to Sunday, March 21, at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium.
Watch the Trailer…