Review: Colour of the Ocean


In a brilliant clash between morality and legality, German director Maggie Peren has created a film about two Senegalese refugees, a father and son, who arrive in the Canary Islands attempting to escape the crushing poverty of Senegal.

At 95 minutes long, this heart-wrenching film feels like a true-to-life documentary — though it is also a beautiful masterwork of filmography. Premiering in Germany this past March, it is set to be a strong competitor in many 2012 international film festivals throughout the world.

The opening scene shows the coastline of the Canary Islands as an African refugee boat runs aground. We are introduced to our main characters, Hubert Koundé, who plays the loving father Zola, and his son, Mamadou. As they struggle to their feet and try to escape the beach, a German vacationer named Natalie finds them and tries to give them assistance.

While Natalie runs off to fetch water, Zola and Mamadou are taken by local police. Here, we meet the dynamic police chief José, who interviews Zola before deciding to deport him and his son back to Senegal. There, it can be assumed, they will find not only poverty but persecution from Senegalese politicians. From this point on in “Colour of the Ocean,” Maggie Peren takes you onto a roller coaster of emotions that threatens to split the viewer in two.

As you watch, a question appears before the viewer over whether or not to side with the law and José or with morality and Zola. During the beginning of “Colour of the Ocean,” the audience can easily begin to feel attached to Zola because he has a son to take care of and only wishes to provide Mamadou with a better life than he had.

On the other hand, José, representing the objectivity of immigration laws, appears to have no emotions or sympathies whatsoever toward any refugees, especially Hubert Koundé’s character, which moves us to see him as a sort of antagonistic individual.

Eventually José’s tragic private life with a heroin-addicted sister is revealed. The audience begins to realize that José and Zola represent more than just who their characters are supposed to be – they represent a larger aspect of the interaction between morality and the law. Now, whether to feel for either or both is up to you and your judgment, but this movie will have you walking out wondering what you would have done in the same situations.

I fully recommend “Colour of the Ocean” to any person who walks on this earth and claims either side is right and the other wrong.

“Colour of the Ocean” will play June 23 at 8:30 p.m. and June 24 at 4 p.m.
at the Film Society of Lincoln Center Walter Reade Theater in NYC.


Director: Maggie Peren
Writers: Maggie Peren (script writer), Alex Ross (script translator)
Stars: Álex González, Hubert Koundé, Sabine Timoteo, Friedrich Mücke, and Nathalie Poza
Runtime: 95 minutes
Released: March, 22 2012 (Germany), not released yet in the U.S.
Genre: Drama
Languages: German, French and Spanish
Country: Germany

This review won first place in the 2012 IJM Film Review Contest in Vancouver, Wash.
Ian McDaniel is a junior in Advanced Placement English at Skyview High School
and a student of IJM staff writer Bev Questad.

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