Gabriel Range’s last film at the Festival, Death of a President, caused intense controversy with its speculative fiction about an assassination of George W. Bush. With I Am Slave, Range tackles a subject that would be equally incendiary if it were more on the public radar.
Currently in London, England, thousands of people are living in what could be considered a contemporary incarnation of slavery. They have no legal papers, no freedom of movement, no pay for the work they do. They live invisibly in a thriving, democratic metropolis – and of course London is not alone. I Am Slave tells the story of one such modern captive.
As a young girl in the south of Sudan, Malia enjoys growing up within a close-knit community, including a father (Isaach de Bankolé) who exercises his strength and pride in magnificent scenes of traditional Nuba wrestling. But even he can’t protect her when mujahideen raiders sweep down from the north. They capture her and sell her in the capital, Khartoum, where she spends years doing domestic work for an Arab family, behind locked doors. Her father searches the city for her, but never comes closer than a near miss.
When Malia (played by Wunmi Mosaku) turns eighteen, the matron of the family that owns her sends her to relatives in London. There, Malia works trapped behind the gates of their wealthy home. She has no money and no passport; no one even knows of her whereabouts.
With Range at the helm, and supported by the same writer-producer team that made The Last King of Scotland, I Am Slave carries an impressive pedigree of serious, engaged drama. But pedigree is not what counts here. The success of this film lies in its ability to draw the viewer into Malia’s life. Range’s camera is close and intimate; his perspective is hers. Each time we may try to dismiss Malia’s world as impossible the film pulls us back into its horrifying truth. –TIFF
Wow. This actress, Wunmi Mosaku, should be huge by now. She's incredibly talented, and beautiful. The reason I give this film 4 stars instead of 5 is because I never saw a reason for the Mom of the household to be so incredibly malicious and inhumane. What was her deal??? But overall, I think it's a film worth watching.