“The Adventure” is the name used by African migrants setting out on the Journey to Europe. Three young men from Ivory Coast entered Europe illegally crossing the Greek-Turkish border. They want to continue westward but European Union rules require them to stay in the country where they first set foot in the EU: Greece.
Filmed over the space of a year, “The Adventure” follows the protagonists living in Athens, their obsession with leaving, and the need for money and luck.
Director: Grégory Lassalle
Video Editor: Luc Plantier
Sound: Manolis Makridakis
Sound Editor: Clément Chauvelle / Brodkast
Colour Grading: Jean Coudsi
Subtitles: Escarlata Sánchez, Lena Roche, Nuno Prudêncio, Diego Giuliani & Adrian Lancashire
Grégory Lassalle Filmmaker
“I wanted them to feel I was on their side,
and so was my camera.”
- What’s your background?
I think there are two things that have always motivated me: understanding History (with a capital ‘H’), and understanding people’s lives. That’s the basic gist of my life. International solidarity came first, then journalism, and finally documentary film. My films today try to point people towards a conjuncture of these two elements – history and people’s lives. I want to tell stories about people caught in the currents of History, with their hopes, their strengths, and the challenges they face.
On one project after another, that’s the way I worked between 2003 and 2010 – with Mayan farmers in Guatemala, with migrants stuck in Greece during the great migration wave of the 2010s, with workers and farmers living in Argentina during one of its oil bonanzas, and today in France with ex-convicts, about their lives after they’ve finished serving long prison sentences.
The way I work is basically to immerse myself; it has to be over a long time, to get the best possible sense of the phenomena I’m setting out to describe. Generally, these immersions lead to building up a relationship of friendship and real trust, which I consider indispensable if the film is going to become part of a collective building enterprise, even though I’m the one who started it.
- How did you make contact with this film’s three protagonists?
The street in Athens where new asylum applicants file their claims is called ‘Allodapon’ by the Greeks, except the migrants renamed it ‘Al Capone Street’. It’s a dark street in the outskirts of Athens where hundreds of migrants came day and night hoping the Greek police would choose them to be given a residency permit.
I mainly approached French-speakers, so communication would be easier. Nourou, an Ivorian, introduced me to Loss, who’s the main protagonist in my film. He took me back to his place one day, which was a living room-one bedroom apartment with 18 Ivorians living in it, in Kypseli neighbourhood, or ‘Black neighbourhood’, as he called it. That’s where I met his great friend Moussa, and Madess, who later became the film’s other protagonists.
- How did the filming go? What were you up against?
It was pretty humaine; there weren’t any real problems. I just had to take care of building up a relationship of respect and trust with my protagonists, so that they didn’t feel my filming as another ‘ordeal’.
I say ‘ordeal’ because the migrants suffer lots of violence on their journeys, from the police, from people smugglers, other migrants, local populations; and I didn’t want this to be another hard experience for them.
I wanted them to feel I was on their side, and so was my camera, even though there were some tricky times we were filming. The hardest, really, was with the Greek police, especially when we tried to get across the border with North Macedonia.
- What’s your point of view about the subject your film’s about?
- How would you describe your style, on form and content?
I’m in favour of direct, immersive film, the closest you can get to the characters and their inner thoughts. What interests me is the subjective experience of situations people have lived through. The form I propose goes in that direction. I always try to get close to the protagonists and what they say and feel. I’m generally close to them with my camera, but I also want to use tableaux, to place the protagonists within the contextual settings of their own stories.
The substance of my films can be seen as dark, or fixated on hardship or melancholy, and it’s possible that those things motivate me as well. The mechanics of filming various facets of reality are generally simple: it’s a two-man crew. Either I film and do sound at the same time, or I work with a cameraman and we both do sound.
- Have you heard from Loss, Moussa and Madess?
Do you know what’s happened to them?
Loss is my closest friend. We’ve been working together to build a life for him ever since he arrived in France five years ago. It was a long slog for him, finding work and then getting his papers. We’re very close because we stuck together to make that happen. He’s working as an auto mechanic. This summer (2019), we’re going to Ivory Coast so he can finally see his family again, and so I can meet them.
I’m also in touch with Moussa and Madess, but I see them less. They’re both living in Paris. Madess is still having trouble getting residency. Moussa is more settled. He’ll be coming to Ivory Coast with us this summer.
- What projects have you got going at the moment?
I’m working on ex-convicts’ lives after they’ve been in prison for a long time. Going back to 2017, I’m a one-time robber who spent 25 years away (ten of that in solitary), following his life on the outside, now. What kind of a life can you have after you’ve been in for so long? Are these people capable of readjusting, like the system says they’re supposed to?
I see the situation pretty dark after two and a half years of filming my main protagonist and the people close to him – family members and other prisoners. I don’t think it’s genuinely possible to rehabilitate after you’ve been shut away for so long. Or, if it is, you’re an exception to the rule.
A word about the multilingual adaptation of your film, with 99?
It’s a great opportunity for us filmmakers, definitely; it’s also a real pleasure to be part of a system that doesn’t buy into the ultra-mercantile framework of the documentary industry, and to meet a team that cares.