Yves’ Promise

Director: Melanie Gärtner / 79 min. / 2017 / French (ST: German) / Germany

Frustrated with the corruption in his homeland, Cameroon, Yves decides to try his luck in Europe only to find out that the future will be more difficult than he anticipated.

Director: Melanie Gärtner
Cinematography: Melanie Gärtner, Pola Sell
Editing: Christine Niehoff, Mirja Gerle
Production: Stoked Film
World Sales: Deckert Distribution

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Frustrated by a corrupt system, Yves leaves his home in Cameroon to try his fortune in Europe. But to get there is more difficult than expected. Yves has been on the road for eight years – and is close to failing. Back home are the people who mean the most to him: his sister Annie, who has been holding the family together since Yves left, his little brother, waiting for Yves to take him to Europe, and his father, who expects him to lead the family to a better life. A film about family, the dream of Europe and the impossibility of giving up.

Yves Matou, Sylvain Nguepnang, Annie Matou, Kankoumoto Matou, Christian Matou and others

Directed by Melanie Gaertner
Camera: Pola Sell, Melanie Gärtner
Editing: Christine Niehoff, Mirja Gerle
Music: Ludwig Kuckartz, Siriki Coulibaly
Sound: Roger Mboupda, Romeo Zaf
Producers: Sebastian Popp, Robert Malzahn
Production: Stoked Film in cooperation with m-eilenweit
Sponsors: HessenFilm und Medien, Brot für die Welt
Distribution: jip film & World Sales: Deckert Distribution

Melanie Gärtner studied ethnology and literature in Frankfurt, and later journalism in Berlin. She interned on a range of different film productions and at editorial offices, working with print, radio and television (including SWR, Deutsche Welle, HR). She has attended several training courses, including ZDF medienakademie, IDFAcademy, Drehbuchcamp and the Masterschool Dokumentarfilm. She is a director and freelance author, working with text and film.

I met Yves, a man from Cameroon, in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Morocco In 2010. It’s one of the two places that has a European land border with Africa. I accompanied him in the following years during his attempts to cross into Spain. I experienced the brutality of the Moroccan police, received nightly calls from the boats at sea, and met people who would die a few days later. Yves understood the circumstances in Morocco as well as his slim chances of getting a foothold in Europe. And yet all this seemed better to him than making a new start in Cameroon. Why? To find out, I flew to Cameroon in 2014. There I met Yves’ family. In the role of the messenger, I now commuted between the worlds of the hopeful family in Cameroon and Yves.


DFF Interview with Melanie Gärtner

Film Festival IDFA 2017, First Appearance: “Finally someone is taking a different look at a topic that is so ubiquitous in the media: migration to Europe. Melanie’s curiosity and her very personal way of telling stories have made this a remarkable film.”

International Documentary Festival Amsterdam 2017: “An intense insight into the complex reality of migration that makes it clear that the answers of Fortress Europe – seal off, deport, outsource – are far too simplistic.”

Medico International e.V. : “The film shows that the fates refugees are not isolated and insular, but their fates are connected to fates of other people who hope and fear, love and demand. That is the profoundly humane essence of this film.”

Programmkino.de: “All these intimate, precise observations are a further strength of the film.”

“Dozens of cinematic works, documentaries and feature films alike, have dealt with the global refugee crisis or family fates related to it in recent years: from “Les Sauteurs” and “My Escape” to “Iraqi Odyssey” and “Havarie” to “Mediterranea”. It is all the more remarkable that Gärtner once again has something unique to add, a multi-layered perspective for the viewer. The film makes it unmistakably clear what false, mostly very naïve expectations refugees have. Yves’ Promise” also shows what immense pressure refugees and asylum seekers are sometimes under.”

EFO Magazine: “Universal themes such as hope, responsibility and failure shine through…”

FAZ: “It quickly becomes clear in Gärtner’s film, which avoids artificial exaggeration and concentrates entirely on the individuals, that ‘Yves’ is to be read in the plural.”

KINOZEIT.DE “One wishes this documentary the best. Its perspective is relevant and special. Yves as the main protagonist sympathetic and approachable.”

KINO.DE: “Director Melanie Gärtner shows a perspective of migration to Europe that has seldom been addressed. Migrants like Yves have to shoulder the great expectations of their families who stayed at home, while at the same time struggling to survive from one day to the next in Europe.”

hr-fernsehen, “hauptsache kultur”, 17.01.2019: Melanie Gärtner leaves some questions unanswered; she does not provide answers to Yves’ dilemma. Her film does not judge and yet wants to enlighten. “I try to get the viewer to that point that they can just understand – in their heart – why a person like Yves can’t go back – not if he comes back empty-handed,” she says. Like Yves’ life itself, her film has an open ending.

First Appearance Competition IDFA 2017, Amsterdam
YARHA Festival, Cameroon 2018