‘Gagarine’ shows pain of losing home

“Gagarine” screened at the Cannes Market on a virtual platform from June 22-26. Supplied
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Updated 27 June 2020

‘Gagarine’ shows pain of losing home

CHENNAI: A home is not just bricks and mortar but a place where memories are made — of one’s childhood, one’s joys, and yes, sometimes one’s sorrows.

One of 56 official titles selected by the Cannes Film Festival, which was canceled this year because of the coronavirus, was “Gagarine,” screened at the Cannes Market on a virtual platform from June 22-26.

Directed by debutant Fanny Liatard and Jeremy Trouilh, “Gagarine” is a bittersweet French story of a housing complex on the outskirts of Paris. Inaugurated and named after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the complex is found to be in a state of disrepair and faces demolition.




“Gagarine” is a bittersweet French story of a housing complex on the outskirts of Paris. Supplied

But 16-year-old black teen Yuri (played charismatically by newcomer Alseni Bathily) refuses to leave. He has nowhere to go after his mother abandoned him. Yuri (probably named after the cosmonaut) is a good handyman, and with two friends, Houssam (Jamil McCraven) and Diana (Lyna Khoudri), tries to carry out repairs with secondhand materials before the inspection. He fails, but is inspired to recreate a spaceship in the building’s basement. Passionate about astronomy, he also has a telescope and great imagination to rebuild his place as a sci-fi model.

“Gagarine” is an apt commentary – a fictionalized account of a real incident – on how marginalized communities live on hope, struggling to survive against tremendous odds.




“Gagarine” is an apt commentary – a fictionalized account of a real incident – on how marginalized communities live on hope. Supplied

In many ways Yuri seems to embody the spirit of the community and the complex, and we see the beginnings of the boy’s passion for space when the directors include archival footage of Yuri Gagarin visiting the complex to the cheering of crowds, many of whom have been lifted from a miserable existence to live in the sky-high building.

There are lovely movements in the movie, in which the real and unreal merge, lending themselves into a “cockpit” romance between Yuri and Diana, where she finally notices life-saving Morse Code messages from him that she herself had once taught him.

Together with a superb score by composers Evgueni and Sacha Galperine, and Amine Bouhafa, “Gagarine” presents a hauntingly memorable picture of how the loss of a home sometimes be so traumatic. Had the festival not been sidelined by the coronavirus, “Gagarine” would have certainly created a lot of buzz.


In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

Updated 05 July 2020

In Lebanon, single-concert festival serenades empty ruins

  • The Baalbek International Festival was streamed live on television and social media
  • The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem

BEIRUT: A philharmonic orchestra performed to spectator-free Roman ruins in east Lebanon Sunday, after a top summer festival downsized to a single concert in a year of economic meltdown and pandemic.
The Baalbek International Festival was instead streamed live on television and social media, in what its director called a message of “hope and resilience” amid ever-worsening daily woes.
The night kicked off with the Lebanese philharmonic orchestra and choir performing the national anthem, followed by Carmina Burana’s “O Fortuna,” a 13th century poem set to music.

The program, which ran for just over an hour, included a mix of classical music and rock and folk tunes by composers ranging from Beethoven to Lebanon’s Rahbani brothers.
Held in the open air and conducted by Harout Fazlian, the 150 musicians and chorists were scattered inside the illuminated Temple of Bacchus, as drones filmed them among the enormous ruins and Greco-Roman temples of Baalbek.
Festival director Nayla de Freige told AFP most artists performed for free at the designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
The concert aimed to represent “a way of saying that Lebanon does not want to die. We have an extremely productive and creative art and culture sector,” she said.
“We want to send a message of civilization, hope and resilience.”
Baalbek itself became a militia stronghold during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, but conservation and tourism have revived the ruins over the past three decades.
Lebanon is known for its summer music festivals, which have in past years drawn large crowds every night and attracted performers like Shakira, Sting and Andrea Bocelli.
Other festivals have not yet announced their plans for this year.
Lebanon has recorded just 1,873 cases of COVID-19, including 36 deaths.
But measures to stem the spread of the virus have exacerbated the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Since economic woes in the autumn sparked mass protests against a political class deemed irretrievably corrupt, tens of thousands have lost their jobs or part of their income, and prices have skyrocketed.
Banks have prevented depositors from withdrawing their dollar savings, while the local currency has lost more than 80 percent of its value to the greenback on the black market.