Following the path of the renowned Dakar Rally – an annual off-road race that is open to amateur and professional entries – award-winning filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter's exquisitely made documentary 7915 KM sets off on a passionate voyage from Europe to Africa. This unconventional investigative film concerns itself with morals and ethics, everyday worries and fears, and dreams of the imminent future. It also examines European beliefs and prejudices about Africans, and vice versa.
Like the director's previous work, 7915 KM takes an unflinching look at its subjects. In 2007, Geyrhalter and his team spent sixteen weeks on the race's route, shadowing the aftermath of the rally. But the film is mainly about the people encountered on the sides of the road, inhabitants of impoverished forgotten hamlets in arid, inhospitable lands. Near the outset of the film, the crew is at kilometre 1,009 of the rally. The High-Definition camera is in the Moroccan desert, showcasing the country's breathtaking landscape. Gently curving tire tracks lead to a mountain range, and the camera's wide-angle gaze is fixed on the distance.
Later, at kilometre 3,478, the setting is the Saharan Republic, where a few border soldiers smoke in a jeep loaded with weapons. They are observed by the United Nations, as the territory's legal status was never clarified after the Spanish left. Geyrhalter's camera is diverted to the men, women and children of these regions as they talk about their impressions of the race, and even more notably, about their everyday lives, which have been accentuated and emphasized by the spectacle of the rally.
By the film's conclusion, however, the race itself feels less significant, serving mainly as a backdrop to the intense despairing realities of the lands and the people on the edges of the roads. Contrasting with the freedom and nonchalance of the European racers are the Africans themselves, who dream of escaping to Europe for a better life. Many from this region, hoping to bypass legal restrictions, risk their lives by crossing the sea in half-sinking boats. It is the rare few who succeed.
The screening is in partnership with the Austrian Cultural Forum Prague.