The movie La Pirogue

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The Senegalese drama film La Pirogue

The Senegalese drama film La Pirogue, which Moussa Toure directed, depicts the difficulties faced by West African settlers who decide to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Spain in order to improve their standard of living. The main character Baye Lye, who is the owner and captain of the little boat that transports the spirit of the thirty men and one woman over the ocean to Spain, generates an engrossing flow of scenes in the movie, which participated in the US Certain entry at Cannes (Hum, 3). The movie was named after the famous boat that was selected to ship the thirty-one immigrants, and throughout the journey, the strength of their unity was put into test through the ominous portent experienced during their voyage. Therefore, despite the fatality of the victims who previously succumbed to death during the voyage, Toure displays the unwavering determination of many Africans who disregard the challenges of the voyage, as long as they flee away from the economic frustrations experienced in Africa.

Focusing on Character Analysis

Focusing on Character analysis, it is evident that every character in the film plays a major role in displaying the reality of occurrences in Africa and each of them plays a key role in propelling the plot of the story. In this aspect, the main plot of the story is to display the frequent immigration cases that occur in West African nations in the attempt to escape the harsh conditions experienced while hoping to settle in an Economic friendly nation (Brottem, 234). Baye Laye, who is the main character of the story, offers his boat named La Pirogue towards the mission of traveling across the ocean to Spain. He is a renowned fisherman in their village and a family man who opts to take the chances of engaging in the mission, despite his reluctance.

Baye's Struggles and Poverty

Toure uses Baye to display the level of poverty in West Africa and the daily struggles they encounter to make ends meet. Having a daily occupation, Baye is expected to earn an income that should be enough to cater for his family. However, the decision to engage in the immigration to Spain indicates the incapability of the individuals in Senegal to generate income for consumption. Furthermore, the scenes in the movie indicate the reduction in the quantity of fish gathered in a day, thus reflecting the changes in the weather conditions (Scott, 1). Therefore, Baye's livelihood demonstrates the level of poverty experienced by the inhabitants of Senegal.

Determination of the Immigrants

In addition, Toure uses various characters in the story to display the determination of the immigrants to journey across the ocean to Spain. First, the fact that Baye offers his boat to be used to carry the thirty-one souls indicates his determination to seek a better livelihood in Spain. The boat that Baye offers to be used is his main source of income, and this aspect indicates that he was determined to give it away to fate in his attempt to travel abroad. Furthermore, the fact that Baye leaves his family behind shows the level of determination of the immigrants. Baye Is not guaranteed of his arrival, and he is not sure if he will see his wife and children again (Brottem, 235). However, his bold move to take on the journey despite his reluctance showed that he was determined through life and death to travel to Spain.

The Immigrants' Determination and the Journey

The journey to Spain across the Atlantic Ocean was not guaranteed since, in the last decade, about five thousand people have succumbed to deaths following this attempt (Scott, 2). However, Toure uses this film to indicate the determination of the immigrants, who despite losing some of their previous members from the same activity; they end up taking the same course of action with the hope of a better future (Lucas, 27). The only female in the boat, Nafy, is used by Toure to demonstrate the determination of the societal members in Africa to make a better living elsewhere apart from home. Nafy accepts to undertake the journey, and her pay was to prepare meals for the rest of the immigrants in the boat. The motive of her engagement with the journey was to reunite with her children who traveled a while ago, and during the same voyage, her husband drowned on the similar voyage. That act of engagement, despite the horrific memories of her husband, displays the determination of the immigrants to better their livelihood and reunite with some of their family members.

Cultural Mix and Diversity

The dressings of the thirty-one immigrants display the cultural mix and the diversification of their cultural practices. As seen from various scenes in the movie, some of the passengers of La Pirogue wore traditional clothing, while others embraced the hip-hop and European-influenced fashions (Scott, 2). This is a sign of indication that the African culture has been influenced by the Western culture through the stereotypic notions displayed through media and other platforms (Dumett, 5). In addition, the desire to abandon their cultural practices and travel abroad indicates the fade of their cultural bond.

Gender Dynamics and Femininity

In addition, the comparability of the number of men and women in the boat could be used as a basis of analysis to develop various perspectives. Among the thirty-one passengers of the La Pirogue, only one was female. Toure uses this analogy to illustrate the social setup in Africa, where the man remains as the sole provider of the family, while the woman remains at home to take care of the family. This perspective is also be backed up by the evidence where Nafy, the only woman on the boat, pays the price of preparing meals for the thirty male passengers. Furthermore, the aspect of femininity can also be analyzed through the appearance of only one female on the boat. The fact that only one female took the broad decision to immigrate across the ocean indicates that most females in Africa have not embraced the aspect of being feminist. This means that the women in the twenty-first century still abide by the rules that the man is the head, thus cannot have equal measures when dealing with societal issues.


In conclusion, the movie La pirogue, directed by Toure, displays the dramatic scenes of West African immigrants, who face the dangers of voyaging with the hope of improving their livelihoods in Spain. Focusing on character analysis in the movie, the characters are used by Toure to display the poverty levels in Africa, the determination to make a better living, the cultural mix and diversity, and femininity. Therefore, despite commonness of similar films produced with the same plot of the story, Toure manages to develop a unique insight of the West African culture and still uses the main characters to develop the main message, which is the levels of poverty in Africa.

Works Cited

Brottem, Leif. "Touré Moussa, director. The Pirogue. 2012. Original Title: La Pirogue. 87 minutes. French with English subtitles. Senegal. Rezo Films, Les Chauves-Souris, Astou Films, Arte France Cinema, Appaloosa Films, Royal Pony Film, Studio 37. $34.00." African Studies Review, vol. 57, no. 02, 2014, pp. 235-237.

Dumett, Raymond E. "Introduction: Research Trends in West African History." West African Culture Dynamics, 2010, pp. 4-11.

Hum, Tim. "'La Pirogue' takes La Croisette: African cinema at Cannes." CNN, May 2012, pp. 1-4.

La Pirogue. Directed by Moussa Touré, 2012.

Lucas, V. "Smuggling of migrants from West Africa to Europe." Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa, 2013, pp. 25-31.

Scott, A. O. "Microcosm of Society, Seeking an Anchor." The New York Times, Jan. 2013, pp. 1-3.


April 06, 2023

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