The last day on earth

The U.S. premiere of Alain Gomis' new film "Tey (Aujourd'hui)," starring Saul Williams.

Saul Williams in "Tey."

Alain Gomis’ latest film, “Tey (Aujourd’hui”) is a gentle and understated exploration of life, death, memory, and the passing of time. The film tells of Satché’s (played by Saul Williams) last day on earth, for it has been decided that his time has come to die. Satché himself has recently returned home to Dakar, Senegal after spending the past several years living in the United States. Very much reminiscent of the films of Djibril Diop Mambety, Tey (trailer below) follows Satché as he wanders through the city visiting friends, family, and his former lover. It is a staggering work of quiet reflection that ends up being as much an homage to the city of Dakar as it is a study of a man coming to terms with his own mortality. Jonathan Duncan reviewed the film here.

Alain Gomis’ Dakar is one of contrasts, with construction sites and unfinished buildings juxtaposed against towering, modern glass skyscrapers; middle class households and former colonial neighborhoods appearing alongside informal settlements of cinder blocks and corrugated metal. When I asked Alain Gomis about the contrasts in his portrayal of the city, he responded by explaining:

If you’re trying to find the right image of [Dakar], you can have a thousand images and still not have the perfect picture of [Dakar]. The real [Dakar] exists in the gaps between all those pictures. Truth is found in all those things that escape us. Truth is in the in-betweens.

I think it fair to apply this idea to all of Tey (Aujourd’hui): the film is about liminality; the feeling of being in-between – in between life and death, present and future, being at home and being a stranger, an agent and observer, object and subject. The film’s brilliance lies in what is not said – it’s silences on things that do not need to be spoken. In effect, this pushes the viewer to internalize the film on a much deeper emotional level and forces him or her to engage with the content in a way that has become all too rare in the realm of cinema.

Alain Gomis was born in Paris in 1972 to a French mother and Senegalese father. He directed several short films before shooting his debut feature L’Afrance in 2001, which won awards including the Ecumenical Jury Prize and the Silver Leopard in Locarno. The film focused on the character El Hadj Diop, a Senegalese student whose residency in Paris is nearing its expiration. Tey is Gomis’ third feature, and premiered to great acclaim at the Berlin Film Festival 2012. The film just recently won the prestigious Golden Stallion at the FESPACO 2013 for best film and best actor, a first for Senegal and a first for an American actor.

The film will be available in selected theaters around the U.S. from October 6th – November 6th, 2013. The U.S. premiere and a week-long theatrical run will take place at New York’s MIST Harlem Cinema on Sunday, October 6th in partnership with the Creatively Speaking Film Series.

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