Dammi / Yann Mounir Demange (2023) Film Review from the 76th Annual Locarno Film Festival, a short movie directed by Yann Demange, written by Rosa Attab and Yann Demange and starring Riz Ahmed, Isabelle Adjani, Souheila Yacoub, Aïssatou Diallo Sagna, Sandor Funtek and Jamil McCraven.
The sights of France, the red lighting employed and the combined efforts of a small but dedicated cast make the short film, Dammi, a thought-provoking conversation starter. Riz Ahmed stars in the brief picture as a man looking for his place in the world as he wonders about his estranged dad. The Moulin Rouge, a cabaret dancer (Isabelle Adjani) and a French-Algerian woman (Souheila Yacoub) are all integral parts in helping the viewer piece together the ideas found in this artistically and emotionally relevant short movie.
Ahmed’s character seems to be retracing the steps of his past in Paris to discover an identity for himself that may have something to do with his father’s absence. This movie is chock full of heavy symbolism that is employed to tell its important story of belonging. The scenes reflecting the present could be a bit ambiguous and, without a doubt, intentionally so. Director Yann Demange hints at something that has caused Ahmed’s character and his father’s falling out. Ahmed’s persona in the movie seems to possess a lot of fascination with the unknown by referencing the things the character is actually aware of in juxtaposition to the things he is uncertain of.
Ahmed is portraying an Arab man who is trying to embrace his own sense of being while merging with the gorgeous woman played by Souheila Yacoub who is a remarkable screen presence in this movie. Ahmed and Yacoub come together on screen with a terrific intensity that is pretty romantic and satisfying in the fact that it helps shed light on Ahmed’s insecurities and his own need to discover, within himself, a purpose in life as well as a place to belong and people to belong with by his side.
Algiers is right behind Paris as Dammi makes it known to the viewer. This realization helps signify the fact that Ahmed’s lost soul can very easily find a place to call his own but, at the same time, he must confront where he comes from as well as where he is going to find some sort of happy equilibrium.
Adjani’s role in the picture is quite brief but the images of her (an older but, nonetheless, gorgeous woman) and many other images in Dammi help the film stand out as a spectacle which is a testament to the power of culture and finding one’s sense of fitting in when the world presents so many distinct opportunities some of which have, unfortunately, been lost. Ahmed’s character’s relationship with his father seems to be imaginary albeit authentic at the same time offering the audience many layers of though-provoking material to embrace in the picture’s tight 18-minutes.
While Dammi is better left analyzed by the individual viewer who will let the images speak to them how the viewer sees fit, there are many scenes that are powerfully rendered and make the movie something of a true curiosity piece for people who have wondered where they fit in and what they have given up in life to achieve what they have achieved.
Dammi’s most touching scenes are between Ahmed and Souheila Yacoub who give the movie an emotional edge that will keep the viewer riveted as the movie goes through its dramatic paces. There’s passion and liveliness in their on-screen connection that keeps the viewer wondering if Ahmed’s character is actually trying to find a new life for himself in order to escape the memories of his past. This movie will have several different interpretations as it is very stylistic and open-ended. In any event, it’s a visual feast for the eyes and the passionate scenes between the two aforementioned stars helps open up questions about happiness which will make Dammi the type of film that will kick start viewers’ thoughts regarding their own heritage, their relationships and, also, their distinct place in the world today.
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