Måns Månsson and Hongqi Li’s STRANDED IN CANTON is a Swedish/Danish co-production about a Congolese businessman, his Cameroonian girlfriend, his struggles with a Lebanese storage facility owner, and his increasingly hopeless prospects in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Truly, this is a post-globalization world: the boundaries between countries and continents have been rendered essentially meaningless. All there is left is the pursuit of money and capital. In this neo-capitalist jungle of fog, concrete, and ubiquitous neon lights (“Like the Guangzhou lights: always on,” one character sighs), the naive Lebrun (Isibango Iko Lebrun) desperately tries to recuperate his losses after a Chinese businessman ripped him off, failing to transport his shipment of political campaign T-shirts to Congo in time for the election.
Doubling as cinematographer, Månsson seems to have dipped all of Guangzhou in a bath of cerulean dye, transforming the city into an antiseptic industrial purgatory. But, while measured and introspective, STRANDED IN CANTON has the wherewithal to include moments of merciful levity: an impromptu dance party for two in Lebrun’s room; a disastrous night singing Lionel Richie karaoke; Lebrun’s ingenious method of “readjusting” the useless T-shirts.
These scenes make his eventual failure all the more poignant and heartbreaking. I empathized with Lebrun more than any other character I’ve encountered this year at Tribeca, mostly because STRANDED IN CANTON gave me a reason to care about him and his plight.
STRANDED IN CANTON premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.