• Golden Globe Awards

Gagarine (France)

For any enthusiast of space exploration, Yuri Gagarin will forever be known as the first man ever to journey into space. His fame was such that after his 1961 orbital voyage, the Soviet cosmonaut travelled around the world to receive kudos. One such trip was to Paris, where in 1963 he arrived to inaugurate “Cité Gagarine”, the Ivry-sur-Seine housing estate, that was named after him.  This historical moment, complete with archival footage serves as the take-off for the urban fantasy Gagarine.Written and directed by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh, the film is a gritty realistic view of urban decay painted inside a fantastical illusory projection of a child’s imagination. Our protagonist is Youri (Alséni Bathily), a 16-year-old immigrant kid with a penchant for helping others and an aptitude for engineering. Abandoned by his mother, he must fend for himself in a community that is falling apart physically. But no matter how bleak the days might be, it is his gazing at the stars at night that ignites his optimism. When the low-income apartment complex is condemned by the authorities and scheduled for demolition, Youri has nowhere else to go and chooses to illegally stay, collecting an array of discarded commodities by his former neighbors; turning them into a refuge of life support systems.His newfound habitat is an homage to his love of space and all things Gagarin and Liatard and Trouilh utilize this environment to shift the film’s tone into a more surreal escape from the bleakness of Youri’s condemned life. They also wisely populate his life with a few significant accomplices, Houssam (Jamil McCraven) and Diana (Lyna Khoudri), who manage to fuel Youri’s ingenuity when so many others want to beat him back.The filmmakers, who met as students, were helping out a few architectural friends document the demolition of a housing complex. While their first impact was visual, as they began to peel back the layers of the destruction, they were educated to the causality loss of the young inhabitants. The result was a documentary about Cité Gagarine, but they knew they needed more time to tell the full story of this community. In structuring the film about their hero Youri, they fashioned the story so his building is really like a spaceship: and if he leaves it, he can’t breathe. It’s almost as if this place becomes his long-abandoned womb and this time, he doesn’t want to leave.