After the first person in space, Yuri Gagarin – that was exactly 60 years ago, a huge, aging social building in the Paris suburb is named, which gives Fanny Liatard’s film its name: GAGARINE. The 16-year-old boy Yuri (Alseni Bathili) lives and works here, at least in his imagination he is a future astronaut and he is the self-appointed caretaker of the residential complex. Even if his life is by no means easy, he feels very much at home here. He owns a telescope and a self-made model of the solar system hangs in his room. The telescope is not only used for stargazing, Yuri also looks at the people in the neighborhood. He has set up a kind of workshop and living room on the roof. From there, he can listen into the residents‘ apartments through the ventilation systems. It is his secret retreat where he also thinks of his mom who is unable to look after him and who doesn’t answer his calls.
Yuri tries to keep the settlement, which is littered and full of junk, in good condition with a lot of imagination, because it is actually supposed to be demolished soon and many residents are already moving out. With his young neighbor Diana (Lyna Khoudri), whom he likes very much, and the small dealer Houssam (Jamil McCarven), Yuri experiences things that are actually experienced at this age, but the demolition threatens to tear them all away from their homes. Yuri has a great idea: Couldn’t you convert the apartment block into a spaceship and just fly away? And suddenly we discover traces of a love and a coming-of-age film …
GAGARINE is the feature film debut of the French film director Fanny Liatard. She released a 16-minute short film version in 2015. The feature film was in the Cannes selection for 2020, that festival that was canceled due to the pandemic. It then had its real premiere at the Zurich Film Festival in September 2020.
Fanny Liatard has succeeded in making a film in a place that is otherwise associated with drama, hopelessness, fear of the future and violence, but which indeed tells of hope, future and confidence. The film introduces some young people who take their life into their own hands, shape it themselves, and who believe in their own future.
One of the most beautiful scenes in the film shows the diverse residents of the settlement watching a solar eclipse together through a tarpaulin organized by Yuri. Everyone comes to rest and in the chatty, lively, restless district there is silence for a moment, and everyone for a moment forgets the conflicts and everyday problems.
Yuri’s neighbor Diana once said: “If people don’t speak the same language, they beat each other up.” Perhaps that’s naive, but we actually know that such young people are living in the Parisian banlieus, as well as in German, American or British social housing estates. We see young boys and girls who have hope, who pay attention to their fellow human beings, who want to shape their own future and who have the necessary optimism. And maybe these young people in particular need a better hearing, and maybe we need to tell the stories of these young people a lot more. Thanks to Fanny Liatard for doing this with this wonderful, imaginative-realistic, enthusiastic, rousing debut film – thanks also for the surprising, wonderful, melancholy soundtrack and the excellent young cast.
Cast: Alséni Bathily, Jamil McCraven, Lyna Khoudri
Director: Fanny Liatard
The 14th LICHTER-FILMFEST FRANKFURT shows GAGARINE online until May 2, 2021: