Film

Omar Sy Stars As An Undocumented Senegalese Worker In French Comedy-Drama 'Samba'

In 'Samba,' Cesár Award-winning French actor Omar Sy stars as an undocumented Senegalese immigrant trying to evade deportation in France.


Samba is a French comedy-drama that tells the story of an undocumented Senegalese immigrant threatened with deportation after living and working in Paris for a decade. The film, directed by French creative duo Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, stars César Award-winning actor Omar Sy as the eponymous Samba Cissé. The French actor of Mauritanian and Senegalese origin had previously worked with Nakache and Toledano on their 2011 drama The Intouchables.

As Samba, an aspiring chef, tries to achieve resident status with the help of a well-intentioned immigration social worker played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, the film chronicles the harrowing experiences often faced by undocumented migrant workers as they try to evade capture. Sy, who has lived in France his entire life, recently addressed the psychological toll such an existence has on those trying to survive abroad without papers. “I was born and raised in France, and there’s a big difference between that and coming later as an immigrant," Sy said. "You have to learn the language, you have to learn the rules. It’s simple: Either you’re legal or you’re not. To be not legal is a big issue if you’re trying to live decently. To me, born and raised in France, walking on the street is normal. Your head is up, you’re free. You can go wherever you want. But for a guy like Samba, just crossing the street is a nightmare that maybe ends with him being sent back to Senegal.”

Watch the trailer and a short preview clip from the film below. Samba opens in New York City and Los Angeles on Friday, July 24th.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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