Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tribeca: Stranded in Canton by Mans Mansson

handwritten notes retyped from my spiral bound notebook

New York, April 24--looks like Denmark picked off a lot of awards 
at Tribeca. I missed both Bridgend and Virgin Virgin film was enough for one festival.. and I've read "Killing Williamsburg", black humor novel about fictitious suicide epidemic ...and seen Virgin Suicides....

but I did watch every frame of STRANDED IN CANTON, a very laid-back and wryly humorous film, not an award winner so far but should be, not Danish but Swedish...bittersweet...not clichéed...v open-ended ending....light, but stays with you

The story's about Lebrun, a Congolese farmer..."j'ai ma porcherie, mes poulaillers, ma ne suis pas un businessman...." whom Mansson met in Kinchasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, when he played a whole season there as a member of a football team. After his football career, Mansson went to art school in Stockholm and started making films.

Lebrun is trying to extract himself from an impossible predicament in Canton, where's he stuck with a whale load of bright yellow Joseph Kabila presidential election T-shirts, which haven't been delivered and are now worthless because the election is over. Wassim, the Lebanese warehouse manager wants a a large payment for months ofstorage. Like many of the roles in the film, Wassim plays himself and pretty much, according to Mansson reached by phone upstate, invited himself into the production when he saw the two-person crew shooting. Two people ie the director doubling up as cinematographer and his sound person. 

That's the whole deceptively simple story, how Lebrun passes the time, trying to get out of this predicament, raise the dough to pay off Wassim. He has a buddy, Frank, with terrible marketing ideas, hired as production translator from Mandarin and Cantonese, who doubles up as a main actor. There's a non-romantic interest, a Beyonce-like but Platonic Cameroonian girl-friend, who is the common sense anchor of the film and acts as a sounding board for Lebrun's delusions of savoir-faire.

The acting's very good and face cracks up as I write this because in a way it's such a ridiculous story, but so emblematic of false hopes of fast fortunes...not only of the Congolese and sub-Saharan African diaspora in Guanzhou, China's highly polluted manufacturing hub but of expatriates everywhere who are escaping the economic desitution of countries ravaged by exploitation, war and government corruption,,,,,
PS Mansson says script was not prewritten , but developed during production.  
Screenplay credits go to Mansson, Li Hongqi and George Cragg. The film is a succinct 79 minutes in Cantonese, English, French, Lingala and Mandarin, With Lebrun Iko Isibangi , Nana Nya Sylvie, Wassim Hasbini, Frank No playing versions of themselves.          

--Liza Béar

Film stills from Stranded in Canton  2014
by Mans Mansson screened at Tribeca Film Festival 2015

Left: Lebrun, Congolese entrepreneur in Guanzhou and Frank, his friend