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L'Afrance review

""I'm tired of being a black"," explains twentysomething El Hadj (Djolof Mbengue). ""I'm Senegalese"." A grad student in Paris, in the long term he plans to return to the country of his birth to teach. How will he fit in back at `home' after years abroad? And what'll happen to his relationship with stained-glass restorer Myriam (Delphine Zingg)? But there is a more pressing problem - - suddenly threatened with deportation, he chooses to work on a building site to raise cash for false papers...

The debut feature of writer/director Alain Gomis, L'Afrance skillfully slips between present and past, Europe and Africa (hence the hybrid title) and fond memory and contemporary alienation. It's a film that explores emotional ambivalence, Gomis conveying El Hadj's confusion through dialogue and editing, the tight close-ups fragmenting our hero's face while individual scenes are short and clipped.

Mbengue also contributes a moving lead performance, and it's pleasing that Gomis allows a range of possibilities and futures for him and his fellow characters.

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