DISCO BOY – Review by Diane Carson

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Disco Boy explores the distinctive worlds of two fighters,

In his feature debut, Disco Boy, Italian director Giacomo Abbruzzese presents a complex story of political and personal struggle in two individuals from different countries. Escaping into France while on a visa for a football match in Poland, Aleksei, from Belarus, joins the French Foreign Legion. After five years’ service, he’ll receive a French passport.

Meantime, in the Niger Delta, Jomo leads a paramilitary group protesting corporate exploitation of the country’s minerals. His sister Udoka shares in this struggle, both united as well with distinctive, different colored eyes. Aleksei and Jomo will face off against each other when Aleksei’s unit is charged with freeing French hostages. The title comes from Jomo’s comment that, had he been a rich white man, he would have been a “disco boy” dancer, and several scenes foreground a disco club.

In a director’s statement, Abbruzzese explains his use of sudden, violent ruptures in the story in order to present two points of view: that of French Legion soldier Aleksei and African revolutionary activist, guerilla fighter Jomo, thereby “giving the same emotional dignity to both camps.” This unfolds through hallucinations, dreams, and supernatural events that, In Abbruzzese words, “escape categorization.” This lends a “dreamlike dimension” to the two characters, each altering the other.

Shot in Île de France, Reunion Island, and Polish Subcarpathia, these locations enhance the impact of the events, communicating unique, tactile environments. To that end, cinematographer Hélène Louvart’s lighting and compositions strikingly differentiate each arena of action. Similarly, sound design and electro-new wave music by French composer Vitalic robustly interpret scenes, with silence as effective a weapon in several instances. The cumulative effect is an overpowering visual experience conveying hope for humane personal and global relationships. Disco Boy is in Ibo, French, English, and Polish with English subtitles.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.