The Cité Gagarine housing project was built on the outskirts of Paris by the Communist Party of France. Named in honour of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who attended its inauguration in 1963, the complex was constructed in the spirit of hope. However, like the political movement itself, by the late twentieth century its fortunes have subsequently waned due to changes in the economy. By 2019, it was slated for demolition. This is where Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh’s magical film Gagarine kicks off.
For Yuri (Alseni Bathily), who is named after the first man to journey into outer space, Cité Gagarine is his home and houses his wider family. Not his mother, who has moved in with another man and keeps promising to fetch him, but his friends, like Houssam (Jamil McCraven), and neighbours. The shy young man is dedicated to doing whatever he can to prevent the demolition, and his focus never wavers, even when he begins a friendship with an attractive young woman (Lyna Khoudri).
Gagarine is a wildly imaginative and warmly empathetic film. Whilst the central story itself conjures up a certain amount of romance, it’s the willingness of the directors to enrich their tale with Yuri’s dreams of space travel which makes it so memorable. Creating a modern urban fantasy set in a world which feels real yet at the same time slightly alien. Gagarine is a wonderfully hopeful film which is a welcome tonic to kitchen sink social realism.
Gagarine screens at Glasgow Film Festival.