June 2016, distribution news

"Les Sauteurs – Those Who Jump"

by Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner, Abou Bakar Sidibé; opens November 17, 2016

Mount Gurugu overlooks the Spanish enclave of Melilla on northern Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The European Union and Africa are separated here by a high-security border facility consisting of three fences. Refugees, mostly from the sub-Saharan region, live in the tree-covered foothills, from where they try to cross the land border between Morocco and Spain. One of them is Abou Bakar Sidibé from Mali, who in LES SAUTEURS is both the protagonist and the one doing the documenting. After 14 months in the informal camp and numerous failed attempts to beat the fence system, Abou starts filming – his daily routine, his surroundings, the mind-numbing wait for the next "jump". His footage gives insights into the social organisation of the refugee community and provides a mournful look at the supposed El Dorado of Europe. LES SAUTEURS carries out a unique shift in perspective: the abstract, anonymous thermal images of the surveillance cameras stand in contrast to the subjective gaze of an individual. After meeting Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner, Sidibé takes on the responsibility for their camera, tirelessly documenting his living conditions on the sidelines of an EU under lockdown. (Caroline Pitzen)

A radical change of perspective

In Bertolt Brecht’s Flüchtlingsgespräche (Refugee Conversations), written at the end of the 1930s, while Brecht was in exile in Denmark, he wrote, 'The passport is the most noble part of man.' Seventy years later, with daily news about the migrant situation at Europe’s borders, the statement remains a disturbing truth. For those of us born on the right side of the fence, impermeable borders are a rare encounter. But for those on the other side, like Abou, who happens to hold a Malian passport, the options are extremely limited.
When reports of the massive attempts to storm fences in Melilla began to spread in 2014, we were deeply struck by the resilience of the mainly sub-Saharan men on Mount Gurugu. Regardless of how often they fell, no matter how painful their failures – they just seemed to stand up, wipe off the dust and carry on towards their goal.
Granted, there is no shortage of stories of the tragedies at Europe’s borders. But our impression is that the circulating images are rather limited. One voice seemed always missing: the voice of the people concerned. In order to challenge the dominant image of a migrant, we had to first challenge our own approach as filmmakers. We decided to radically take the perspective of our protagonist, and leave him to decide what aspects of his life would be filmed. So we passed the camera to Abou. We were curious to learn what he would film, what aesthetic choices he would make, and how these choices would relate to the existing images of migrants. Abou’s approach to the project initially differed from ours. His main concern was to tell the world about the great injustice he and his friends endure at the fence of Melilla. But gradually the filming itself became an interest and form of expression for him. He switched from being the protagonist to the co-director. Ultimately, LES SAUTEURS also became a film about making a film.(Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner)

Selected press

Searching for a more honest means of capturing the refugee experience, docu helmers Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner hit upon the clever idea of handing the camera over to a Malian emigrant, Abou Bakar Sidibé, and stepping away. The result, "Those Who Jump", is one of the most authentic films on this highly charged topic. (...) "Those Who Jump" also becomes a cinematic essay on the awakening of visual senses, further cementing its appeal as a popular fest item. When Sidibé first starts filming, he doesn’t know how to set up shots, and he’s not even sure what to film. Yet in relatively short order, he develops an understanding of framing and also begins to see the camera as a means of asserting his individuality. Though an unexpected byproduct of the experiment, this discovery of his own pictorial acumen becomes one of the docu’s key selling points (...) A film to engage multiple emotions. (Jay Weissberg, VARIETY)

Abou proves to be a masterful filmmaker and storyteller of the things that move him. As well as a precise director when it comes to representing himself on film: enthusiastically he instructs one of his comrades on how exactly to film him as he washes himself, or else confides his longing for Europe directly to the camera, as he also lays bare his own fears. In becoming an active subject of his own film and reflecting on himself, a single human being has succeeded in stepping out from an anonymous, opaque and excessively mediatised mass of refugees. (Katja Nicodemus, DIE ZEIT)

A riveting form of home movie where home itself is entirely off limits, "Those Who Jump (Les Sauteurs)" offers viewers a raw glimpse into the lives of African migrants hoping to make it into Europe by scaling a barrier between Morocco and the outlying Spanish city of Melilla. Rather than shooting a typical documentary, directors Moritz Sibert and Estephan Wagner decided to hand off a camera to Abou Bakar Sidibé, a Malian who spent more than a year trying to cross over to the other side. The resulting footage exposes the everyday plight of exiles seeking a better life abroad, and doing so with cunning, humor and a sense of their predicament that’s at once fatalistic and remarkably sanguine. (Jordan Mintzer, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER)


Moritz Siebert was born in Stuttgart (Germany) in 1973. He initially began studying Medicine and Cultural Anthropology in Berlin before completing studies in Documentary Filmmaking at the National Film and Television School in the UK. LES SAUTEURS is his second feature-length film.
Estephan Wagner was born in Viña del Mar, in Chile in 1976. He originally trained as an editor in Germany, and has edited numerous feature films and documentaries. In 2008, he earned a master’s degree in Documentary Filmmaking at the National Film and Television School in the UK. LES SAUTEURS is his first feature-length film.
Abou Bakar Sidibé was born in Kidal, Mali in 1985. After earning a university degree in English, he worked as a teacher, among other jobs. LES SAUTEURS is his first film.

Country/Year: Denmark 2016. Format: DCP, BluRay. Colour. Running time: 79 Mins. Languages: French, Bambara with English subtitles.
Producers: Signe Byrge Sørensen, Heidi Elise Christensen. Production company: Final Cut for Real (Copenhagen, Denmark). Directed by: Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner, Abou Bakar Sidibé. Screenplay: Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner. Camera: Abou Bakar Sidibé. Editor: Estephan Wagner. Sound Design: Henrik Gamov. World premiere 17. Februar 2016, Berlinale Forum