Gagarine (2020) Film 4, Written by Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh, Benjamin Charbit, Directed by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh.

When time and place merge in this way, usually, you’ve got something special. The idea is quite simple. Youri (Alséni Bathily) has been abandoned by his mum. He’s a precocious, a 16-year-old boy living in Cité Gagarine, a housing project in Ivry-sur-Seine, who dreams of becoming an astronaut. But he channels his gift for fixing things into trying to fix the amenities in his housing block from the lifts to the lighting to practically everything that’s falling apart. It’s the only home he’s ever known.  

He gets a bit of help from his friends Houssam (Jamil McCraven) but his heart lies with a Roma girl, Diana (Lyna Khoudri) who brings a bit of spark and romance into his life.

Predictably, the authorities prevail. The authorities condemn Gagarin, named after the first man in space, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Little or no thought or planning was given to where 365 households of the French underclass would find accommodation in a Paris of overwhelmingly overpriced accommodation but also in short supply.

Chris Leslie (2016) Disappearing Glasgow: A Photographic Journey summed it up.

‘I always presumed the Red Road flats would last forever, but when you see it now in this state you realise it’s over. It’s not the actual building itself, but all your memories, that’s where I was brought up, that’s where I was made.’

 Youri refuses to move. He continues to live in one of the voids. Others, such as Dali (Finnegan Oldfield) also stay, but threaten to jump from the top of the building as security forces hunt him down, beat and harass him.

A crowd gathered to watch the demolition of the Red Road flats by controlled explosion (some administrator had the great idea of making it part of the attraction of the Commonwealth Games taking place in Glasgow—a fuck-you to former tenants).

Here the denouement has Youri still inside as former tenants and friends gather for a similar controlled explosion of Gagarin. The director interviewed former residents. In a way, it’s a beautiful ending. Not like the reality of a brutal social structure that had chopped them down to size. Worth watching.