THOSE WHO JUMP is a striking portrait…. of manhood, of a community and of a filmmaker. At the heart of this film is the resilient and affable Abou Bakar Sidibé whose work allows extraordinary access into the marginal lives and communities built where continents collide.
As Sidibé gets to grips with his newly donated camera in the sometimes misty, Moroccan mountain woods he evokes an almost myth-like existence overlooking Melilla the Spanish colonial outpost where he and thousands of other African men plan to jump the fence into Europe. There is shared purpose and communal aspiration bordering on a religious-like belief system among Sidibé’s cohorts – the handful we see and the thousands who join them when it’s time to jump the fence and “become European”.
The sense of Spain’s paranoia is palpable through crude night vision security footage silhouetting throngs of “jumpers” and again as Sidibé document’s the bloody aftermath of encounters with overzealous border guards. It occurs to me that these very modern tensions ignore the fact that Africans and Iberians have been traversing between continents for millennia – long before colonial carve ups and 21st century migration “crises”. Can these efforts really affect this tide of history?
Such gargantuan notions are a world away when Sidibe sits with his friends and unpicks the minutiae of daily life, waiting for the next co-ordinated mass rush at the fence… endless games of draughts and football. Dumpster diving and “grass is greener” stories of what is in store on the other side also serve to pass the time and give an intimate insight into the future hopes and abounding camaraderie of these men. This sense of community and shared endeavour feels genuine and marks this film out as a subtle piece of compassion.
With the internal hierarchies and quasi institutions set up by the Melilla fence jumpers to self-govern and administer their collective efforts, there’s a sense of the frontier here – akin to traditional cinematic renditions of “the wild west” or “the gold rush”.
THOSE WHO JUMP is a uniquely crafted piece of documentary storytelling – full of hope -that has stayed with me.
By Baff Akoto
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Fri 4 Nov | 18:30 | ICA BOOK NOW