A political angle on Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro

A political angle on Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro

Les Neiges de Kilimandjaro – a political view * Les neiges du Kilimandjaro is a film that illustrates a political life at ground level, giving a voice to the saying “the personal is the political”. Its leading male protagonist Michel is a man deeply embedded in the politics of his immediate world – l'Estaque area of Marseille, a small port once busy with trade and painted by Cézanne, now serving smaller local fishing boats.
 
Guédiguian gives us a story that transcends this setting to become global in its treatment of a man reacquainting himself in his own core values.
 
Michel often refers in the film to Jean Jaurès, a hero of socialism, and this is where we can begin to orientate ourselves in respect to the character of Michel. Here the filmmaker Guédiguian wishes to provide for us a very contemporary sort of leftist hero. Michel is unsure of his own place in the world, yet certain of the ideologies that have served him well. Conflicted yet resolute.
 
Les Neiges de Kilimandjaro is another homecoming film for Guédiguian. After seeing this film, we are again reminded how much Marseille has to offer as a portrait of current transitions in labour and culture.
 
So what kind of transition in Marseille is this film reflecting? Historically France's busiest trading port, linking France with northern Africa during the colonial days, Marseille diversified as trade declined in the twentieth century to accommodate the fishing industry and see its old dockside converted to leisure operations. A tourist economy. clean, beautiful and bourgeois. Despite this, the decline of the port following the 1970s oil crisis led to mass unemployment, a period that the region has been recovering from ever since. This film is set in the final days of one of the last remaining outposts of this old industry, and delves into the mindset of the proud people who have worked there.
 
The very fact that in the film Michel is tormented by the younger dock workers speaks of the region's astonishing 40% youth unemployment rate. Youth disenfranchisement is part of a gradual transition in areas of gentrification and adjustment to the tertiary sector acrossEurope. Part of this experience for young men culturally is the search for a new genre of masculinity, a new way to measure successes and failures that is totally separate from work. It is a process that has been seen on screen many times from Jean Gabin to The Full Monty. Here Guédiguian illustrates a young male in crisis, looking for elders to blame and waiting for an act of kindness to restore hope.
 
European legal provisions linked to the film:
 
- State aids to shipyards: 
Restructuring plan of Gdansk shipyard, Poland
Assistance in respect of cases concerning redundancies (Odense Steel Shipyard, Denmark)
- Solidarity between generations:
Decision on the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (2012)
- Situation of single mothers
EP non-legislative resolution
- Marseille, European capital of culture (2013):
Decision establishing a Community action for the European Capital of Culture event for the years 2007 to 2019
 
* by Nick Shaw, British member of '27 Times Cinema'
Via '27 Times Cinema' established in 2010, the LUX Prize gives the opportunity to 27 European young cinema lovers to be substantially involved in the Venice International Film Festival where they can watch, report and reflect upon films.