Stranded in Canton
Documentary filmmaker Måns Månsson turns his hand to feature film in his semi-improvised tragicomedy Stranded in Canton. Lebrun, played by Isibango Iko Lebrun, is a farmer from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has come to Guangzhou with dreams of making it big selling T-shirts. The only problem is that he has zero business acumen, which proves problematic when things start going wrong. His plan is to sell shirts with the slogan “Vote for Kabila” ahead of the Congo’s presidential election, but the delays with the Chinese manufacturer are so great that the election is long over by the time the shirts arrive. Lebrun is left with thousands of useless shirts, a debt to the manufacturer, an angry Lebanese warehouse manager chasing him for rent and, worst of all, an expired visa.
Lebrun attempts to turn his fortunes around in a number of ways, for example, might the T-shirts sell better if modified to read “Fuck Kabila”? These efforts are tragic and comical in equal measure, thanks in large part to the efforts of Isibango Iko Lebrun who strikes the perfect balance between naïve, down-on-his-luck, irritatingly ineffectual and eternally optimistic. His friend and love interest Sylvie, an African beautician, serves as his Yoda as he navigates the dog-eat-dog Chinese business world, but how long can she put up with his idiocy?
Månsson’s film is an experimental exploration of the new economic relationship between Africa and China, and how it plays out on the micro level. On a backdrop of an enormous misty metropolis, Lebrun sits alone, high up in his sterile apartment, wondering what to do next. This film is expertly shot and has the unrehearsed feeling of a documentary, no doubt because the dialogue is mostly improvised. The shots of Guangzhou – dive karaoke bars, strange gymnasiums, decrepit warehouse spaces that double as living quarters – paint a picture of a city with endless underbellies. This movie is sedate, and often very silent, but it makes a lasting visual impression of a city and a life.
Stranded in Canton does not yet have a UK release date.
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