The Third World is somewhere in almost every great city. It fills much of the Brooklyn of Restless City. This movie has a zip chance in the big market but will still be worth viewing long after many of this year’s “winners” have rumbled down the chute to the digital septic tank. It has an advantage: it’s alive.
We are given slices, vignettes, about a young man newly arrived from Senegal, in West Africa. Djbril (Sy Alassane) wants to be a recording artist, despite a rather dour personality that is wary and watchful. He takes small jobs, deals with some criminals, courts a beauty (Sky Grey, who doesn’t make us think of gray skies). Writer Eugene M. Gussenhoven might have enriched the character connections more, but this is not a plot picture. It is a “go with the flow” vision close to documentary but never pushy or pointing. To call it small is a small thought.
Director Andrew Dosunmu is on top of his subjects without crowding them, invaluably helped and deepened by cinematographer Bradford Young. His African faces and New York locations are intersecting spirits, and he makes great use of light and color. What an eye! I was reminded of the wonderful still photographer Charles H. Traub. Never just pretty, and always keen for life.