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By Alan Ng | September 18, 2023

It should come as no surprise the migrant crisis is a global issue. It just seems worse in our own backyard. This idea is examined in writer-director Sam Abbas’ Obstaculum.

The documentary takes us to the right-leaning commune of Joinville-le-Pont, located just a few miles from the center of Paris. It’s the beginning of winter, and the cold breezes are unbearable. The city has just instituted changes to the French Squatters Eviction Procedures, giving owners and the police more power to evict squatters.

Abbas is right there as a group of African migrant families from Ivory Coast, Gambia, Senegal, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, and Ethiopia attempt to occupy a state-owned building in Paris. We first see the group break down the door of a museum. Once inside, they settle in amongst the artwork as alarms blaze. Soon, the neighbors report the break-in and call the police.

“…a group of African migrant families…attempt to occupy a state-owned building in Paris.”

Running at seven minutes, Obstaculum is as simple a documentary as you can get. His style is a sort of fictionalized cinéma verité. The cameras hang back and record the actions of the subjects. Alia’s Birth is a great example of this. However, this is not fiction.

Abbas is embedded with the migrants as they break into the Paris art museum. The filmmaker is not in the middle of the action but is off to the side, and much of the action is captured at a distance. He adds a bit of classic silent film-ish title sequences to give us the context and minimal play-by-play as it happens.

I found the events on screen interesting and somewhat dangerous. However, in the end, I wanted more. I wanted to be in the middle of it all. That said, I understand the practicality of a shoot like this, and my desires may not have been possible.

No matter where you stand on the issues of immigration and refugees, Obstaculum brings to light the reports we don’t hear about surrounding the matter and the stories we need to make a better-informed position either way.

Obstaculum (2023)

Directed and Written: Sam Abbas

Starring: Edward Akrout, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Obstaculum Image

"…found the events on screen interesting and somewhat dangerous."

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