The Story of Souleymane 2024

L’histoire de Souleymane

Directed by Boris Lojkine Widescreen

A young African immigrant seeking asylum in Paris tries to survive day-to-day in this tense, heartrending piece of social realism anchored by an astonishing performance from first-time actor Abou Sangare.

Aug 16

Hollywood Avondale

France In French with English subtitles
92 minutes Colour / DCP
NZ Classification TBC



Bruno Nahon


Boris Lojkine, Delphine Agut


Tristan Galand


Xavier Sirven

Production Designer

Géraldine Stivet

Costume Designer

Marine Peyraud


Abou Sangare, Nina Meurisse, Alpha Oumar Sow, Emmanuel Yovanie, Younoussa Diallo, Ghislain Mahan


Cannes (Un Certain Regard) 2024


Jury Prize and Performance Prize Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival 2024


Much like the woodland-bound asylum seekers of this year’s Green Border, the asylum seekers of Boris Lojkine’s The Story of Souleymane exist in a purgatorial space – unlike Green Border, though, these migrants are confined to an urban cityscape, where all the trappings of the easy life lie before them, tantalisingly out of reach. Among these stateless citizens is Souleymane (Abou Sangare), a young Guinean man fleeing tragedy and pain in his home country in search of a better life. Souleymane’s daily life is one of pressure, discomfort and constant precarity. He works as a food delivery man, pounding his bicycle through the teeming streets of Paris (shot with rollicking, handheld intensity that follows Souleymane at speed) on a rented account, as he is not legally allowed to work. Paid a meagre percentage of his hours, Souleymane sleeps in a giant facility for the homeless, waking before dawn to make sure he has a bed booked in for the following evening. His bike is falling apart, few Parisians even notice him, let alone speak to him. Souleymane exists in a world where most migrants must fend only for themselves out of necessity – the bureaucratic, banal cruelty of the French asylum-seeking system draining them of their humanity day-by-day. All the while, Souleymane is rehearsing his story, one given to him by shady advisors who assure him if he is not note-perfect in his fiction, he will never be granted asylum.  

Following Souleymane’s breathless existence in the days before his interview, Lojkine rarely leaves Sangare’s side, evoking the intensely naturalistic films of the Dardenne brothers as well as Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You and Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves in his unsentimental and often gruelling rendering of the everyday indignities of society’s most vulnerable. This is not to say that the film is without levity or soulfulness, however, and what is most endearing about The Story of Souleymane is the sense of hardscrabble humanity peering through the cracks of a resolutely dehumanising system. Anchoring the film is first-time actor Sangare, whose performance here is nothing short of astonishing – it is impossible to look away as he weaves through days of misfortune and menial labour. The film culminates in a heart-stopping interview sequence, as notable for its unblinking length as for Sangare’s total commitment, as we witness the walls Souleymane has built to protect himself from his own trauma fall away one by one. The Story of Souleymane arrives at a crossroads, one with glimmers of hope, the soul of this young man laid bare in unforgettable fashion. — Tom Augustine