Abou Bakar Sibide, a Malian refugee, is given a camera to record the people and places around him as he makes the bold attempt to cross the border from Morocco into Spain. Mount Gurugu, where he resides, is a makeshift camp made up by others, mainly sub-Saharans, who hope to pass through the high security that guards the wall.
In what turns out to be a fine twist on the handheld genre, Sidibe is both the film’s protagonist and narrator, whom by the end of the film reveals a profound picture of struggle, hope and at times despair. The camera is situated right in the middle of the camp and follows Sidibe’s attempts to break over to the other side as well as capturing everyday life, including genuinely moving moments of grief and happiness between the group.
It’s not an easy watch. Documentary maestros Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagnermust had known the odd dynamic that the film plunges its viewers into when it screened at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. We are given a firsthand account of a real struggle, with an angering pertinence to reality that has not since shifted. The viewer observes, as Sidibe does, the most personal of accounts, the living conditions and impositions of the unseen but forever present political backdrop. What we also get is as true an insight as one is likely to find into the lives of these people as people.
The prevailing message from the issue with refugees is that these are people, not unlike us, who have real lives which are often forgotten in the midst of the politicking and bureaucracy that mires the reality of the situation. It’s difficult to talk about Those Who Jump as a film; it is more a document, an account of one man’s journey, his most intimate moments as he never looses hope in the fulfilment of an simple dream.
As it is continually discussed amongst the contingents of the camp, Europe becomes almost mythologised as a paradise, a recompense that will reward their determined patience. A long-range shot of the settlements over the border, which is repeatedly taken by Sidibe at various points in the film, at first beckons hope and later conveys desperation. One senses that there is a cruelty at play here and we, the viewers, are helplessly consigned to be mere observers in the circumstance.
Of course, one might ask for context but as the film goes on, it’s apparent that this is exactly what this film doesn’t need. There is no abstraction from Sidibe’s perspective here, through no one’s eyes but his are we forced to see the world. It’s from this that Those Who Jump becomes one of the most touching films to be released in a long while. It does loosely follow a narrative, but what it offers are glimpses, fully realised and unmediated, of a world that is so close to us, but at the same time couldn’t be further.