Djon África review – globetrotting quest yields warmth and wonder

There’s a charming, easy swing to this docu-fiction feature from documentary film-makers João Miller Guerra and Filipa Reis. It has a warmth and openness as it follows its nose across the landscape, building episodic encounters with nonprofessional local people into what could be called a quest narrative. Ruminating valuably on the nature of cultural belonging and exclusion, it’s amiably laid-back, though I have to confess I felt that a bit more storytelling structure and energy wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The musician Miguel Moreira plays Djon, essentially a version of himself – a Portuguese guy whose family hails from Cape Verde, the island state and former Portuguese colony 350 miles off the west coast of Africa.

Djon does little all day, loafing around his exasperated grandmother’s flat, hanging out with his girlfriend and occasionally loping out to help his sister on her shoplifting expeditions. But when an old lady in the street says that she knew his rascally, shiftless father in Cape Verde – the man who ran out on his family – and he looks just like him, Djon is moved to travel there on a mission to find the old man and find himself, too.

I found myself smiling along to this film as likable Djon meets up with various people helping or hindering him, and the film looks great as it shows various places on the island. Where are we going with all this? A big discovery? Well, there is a discovery of sorts: Djon’s journey leads him to a truth about fatherhood and responsibility. An assemblage of set pieces and mood tableaux, and beautifully shot.

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Djon África is released in the UK on 16 August.


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