Rebecca Varidel
14th Mar 2015

Although the opening scene of Samba begins with dancing in a grand hotel, in this joyous French film Samba is the name of the central character, an undocumented immigrant in Paris and the scene soon moves through the hotel, into the kitchen, past the chefs and to the dishwashing area where he is working.

Samba is a celebration of the human spirit, and is filled to the brim with contrasts of laughter and despair, loneliness and community, friendships and betrayal, anger and gentleness, bureaucracy and support. It is a film that becomes very real through all of its facets, the story and script, the locations, the cinematography and editing, the choice of cast and mix of generations, all of the acting, the use of sound: conversations that stand alone, the judicial pulse of music and the use of pauses. Samba is a record of the milieu, a film about small every day stories hidden in a world that we rarely access. But beyond everything, Samba is also a film that helps us hold on to hope. Perhaps Samba is one of the most brilliant films that will be released this year. It is definitely a must see - and soon.

Based on the novel 'Samba pour la France', Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (the team behind the Intouchables) have for the first time collaborated with screen writing partners; in this case author Delphine Couline co-wrote the script with her sister Muriel Couline.

We move with Samba (Omar Sy) through his application for residency, his time in the detention centre, and going into hiding.

"You need a lot of different strategies to avoid getting arrested: avoid train stations, blend into crowds in white-collar attire, briefcase in hand - even if it's half empty! Samba disguises himself, changes name and looks. Consequently he looses a part of himself. How can you know who you are when you live hidden?" Olivier Nakache elaborates.

To the original novel, Nakache and Toledano have added a new character Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourgh) a volunteer in an immigration association who is drawn to Samba by fate. Against the two main characters, Tahir Rahir shows his versatility as Wilson, an Algerian who passes himself off as a Brazilian. Izïa Higelin as another volunteer, delights. But the greatest foil, comes from a performance from a non-professional actor, Youngar Fall. "He'd been working in the kitchen at the Renault pub on the Champs Élysées for 30 years. He had just retired. It seemed like fate. He brought an incredible intensity to the character. We were able to tap into his reality on set" Eric Toledano explained.

Beyond the script and the acting and all the components of the film making, what really makes Samba shine is the use of comedy, with the film influenced by Italian comedies of the '60s and '70s, as well as English social comedies, even more than the previous works of Nakache and Toledano.

You will laugh. You will cry (just a little). And when you say au revoir to Paris and Samba and his friends, you will be all the better for having watched this movie. Samba opens in Australia on 2nd April 2015.