Travel Ideals in Film
Chapter Four: Road Movie in Reverse or Perpetual Exile? The Mirage of the ‘Return’ in Tony Gatlif’s Exils (2004)
Road Movie in Reverse or Perpetual Exile? The Mirage of the ‘Return’ in Tony Gatlif’s Exils (2004)
This chapter will explore the cultural resonance in France of Tony Gatlif’s Exils (2004). It will argue that while the film represents, on the one hand, a conventional return to cultural origins for the film’s protagonists and also for Gatlif – who returned to his native Algeria for the first time in forty-three years – it may also be read as a representation of a permanent or perpetual exile for the protagonists and for many of those engaged in the migrant journey. It will be argued that the title of the film, while nominally foregrounding the notion of exile, still remains ambiguous in the context of the narrative and its political themes. Despite the return-to-origins and the presence of many identifiable conventions of the road movie genre, the constant movement that occurs in the film through travel, music and dance seems only to reinforce the permanent dislocation of the protagonists, and I argue that there is no clear sense of arrival, or even of departure, evident in the film.
On the one hand, Exils may be read as a road movie in reverse. It could be considered a deliberate shift by the director, and by the film’s protagonists, away from the traditional ‘centre’ of French consciousness – Paris – to the periphery of French national historical consciousness – Algeria. In so doing, Gatlif suggests that in...
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