2.01.2012

The Visitor

I just realised that this film has not been mentioned on this blog before! According to IMDb, The Visitor is about
A college professor travels to New York City to attend a conference and finds a young couple living in his apartment. 
The more detailed storyline;
In Connecticut, the widower and lonely Professor Walter Vale has a boring life. He teaches only one class at the local college and is trying to learn how to play the piano, despite not having the necessary musical talent. Walter is assigned to attend a conference about Global Policy and Development at the New York University, where he is to give a lecture about a paper that he is coauthor on. When he arrives at his apartment in New York, he finds Tarek Khalil, a Syrian musician, and Zainab, a Senegalese street vendor living there. He sympathizes with the situation of the illegal immigrants and invites the couple to stay with him. Tarek invites him to go to his gig in the Jules Live Jazz and Walter is fascinated with his African drum. Tarek offers to teach Walter to play the drum. However, after an incident in the subway, Tarek is arrested by the police and sent to a detention center of immigrants...

While The Visitor does focus on the white male college professor who sympathizes with the illegal immigrants of colour living in his apartment, and his metamorphosis from a cynical man who has little feeling for anything in the world to the complete opposite. I only really watched this film because of Zainab. Zainab and Tarek that is, played respectively by the stunning Danai Gurira and Haaz Sleiman.
Image source credit
The chemistry between those two could melt screens.

We are not told how Zainab, the Senegalese woman who makes and sells jewellery and Tarek, the Syrian djembe player met. We also don't know how long they have been together.

I watched The Visitor after reading this review on Racialicious. I was eager to see an African woman in a Western film without the usual stereotypes. Zainab's character is as developed as possible for a secondary character, she loves her fashion, she is introverted, she gets upset with her boyfriend when he messes up, she rolls her eyes at the white customer who doesn't seem to know that Senegal and South Africa are miles apart. Her relationship with Tarek was stable, comfortable, and just a joy to watch.

As Nadra Kareem says in the Racialicious article

...yes, seeing the dark-skinned Gurira, with less than an inch of hair on her head, portrayed as anyone’s love interest, especially the love interest of a non-African man, challenges all sorts of cultural norms.
It is interesting, or not depending on what you know, that the non-African love interest is Syrian. I bought The Visitor on DVD and thus was able to watch behind the scenes interviews with the actors. I recall Haaz Sleiman mentioning that relations between Syrian men and West African women was nothing new, I believe he even mentioned male relatives who had married African women. I must have laughed out loud at that remembering how any Lebanese person I met while in university would tell me that they had relatives in Nigeria when I told them my nationality.

While in Nigeria, and other parts of West Africa, there are Lebanese and Syrians who enjoy segregating themselves in the fashion of the white 'expats' who enjoy living their colonial fantasies on African soil, there are Lebanese and Syrians who are integrated into society and intermarry. I've met enough Nigerians with Lebanese fathers to know this much. A bit random, but when I was in primary school, I became really close friends with a Nigerian-Lebanese family, my friends had a Lebanese mother but I'd forget she was not Nigerian because she spoke Hausa fluently. Also a popular Nollywood and Gollywood (Ghanaian Hollywood) actor, Majid Michel has a Lebanese father.

In conclusion, please watch The Visitor!

5 comments:

  1. Thank you! I'm excited about this. Thanks again Eccentric!

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  2. I liked it but I wish we got more one on one time with Tarek and Zainah

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    Replies
    1. Yes! Same here! They need to have their own movie.

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  3. Sounds like an interesting film to watch.

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