Ivorian Inza has come a long way – from the Ivory Coast through Libya and across the Mediterranean to Italy. Now he’s stuck there with his girlfriend, her child and other refugees and is trying to cross the mountains either by train or on foot to get to France, where a friend and another woman are waiting for him. Joël Richmond Mathieu Akafou stays very close to his protagonist, following him wherever he goes and whatever he does – organising things by phone, watching football, calling his family back home. The abstract nature of such concepts as safe third country regulations, curfews and residency status have a mirror held up to them here in concrete, highly personal fashion: we watch Inza having to sit and wait or make another attempt to cross; we see the inner turmoil of his desire for a future and his sense of being tied to the past; there are conversations about escape, identity and questions of belonging. But Traverser does not stylise Inza’s struggle, observing him instead in a life that chafes between romantic entanglements, attempts to escape and the rules of European asylum law; a life that never really finds peace.
by Joël Richmond Mathieu Akafou
with Inza Junior Touré, Kader Keita, Michelle Bawa, Loulou Bawa, Assamoi, Papys, André, Amara, Chanella, Binta Touré
France / Burkina Faso / Belgium 2020 French,  Dioula 77’ Colour World premiere Documentary form


  • Inza Junior Touré (Bourgeois)
  • Kader Keita
  • Michelle Bawa
  • Loulou Bawa
  • Assamoi
  • Papys
  • André
  • Amara
  • Chanella
  • Binta Touré (Bourgeois' mother)


Written and Directed byJoël Richmond Mathieu Akafou
CinematographyJoël Richmond Mathieu Akafou, Mateo Tortone
EditingJeanne Oberson
Sound DesignIvan Broussegoutte
SoundJoël Richmond Mathieu Akafou, Corneille Houssou
Assistant DirectorLaurent Bitty
Production ManagerFaissol Gnonlonfin
Executive ProducerFaissol Gnonlonfin
ProducersFaissol Gnonlonfin, Florent Coulon
Co-ProducersBerni Goldblat, Quentin Noirfalisse
Co-ProductionLes Films du Djabadjah, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
Dancing Dog Productions, Brüssel, Belgien

Produced by

VraiVrai Films

Joël Richmond Mathieu Akafou

Born in Bouaké, Republic of Côte d'Ivoire in 1986. He completed a master's degree at the Institut Supérieur de l'Image et du Son (ISIS) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Afterwards, he studied at the Institut National Supérieur des Arts et de l'Action Culturelle (INSAAC) in Abidjan. Traverser is Akafou's first feature film.


2012 Bia n’de; 13 min. 2015 Zara; 7 min. 2016 Nourah; 26 min. 2017 Vivre riche; 53 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020