Alain de Botton reminds us that the trouble with travel is that you take yourself with you wherever you go. A journey may take us from A to B but what then? In Carina Molier’s utterly enchanting documentary, we follow part of a very disjointed and unsettling journey – that of O.G., a young woman from Zimbabwe, and the eponymous long-distance friend of the director. O.G. is at first sight a free spirit, a wild child knocked off course by her dysfunctional homeland and an equally fractured childhood. The filmmaker points her camera so close to O.G.’s ultimately sad and rootless life that at times it feels like intrusion. And yet, Molier balances her painful examination of an edgy disordered life with that of her own. OG’s travels from Africa to Germany and back many times, are interspersed with episodes from Carina’s own life: there are unexpected echoes in both: a father who could not settle, a mother who leaves him after 48 years of marriage.
There is heartbreaking honesty here captured in old family movies and her father’s vast collection of travel slides. Carina’s family provides a fascinating counterpoint to O.G. who returns to Africa to reclaim her daughter in the hope that belated motherhood will patch up her broken life. Molier’s camera is sometimes jerky, voyeuristic and yet brutally honest. There is an overwhelmingly elegiac quality to the piece enhanced by a rather beautiful and haunting soundtrack. O.G. senses her own inadequacies and yet there is no moralizing here. There are moments of almost unwatchable family drama: the last hours of Carina’s aged and broken father, O.G.’s daughter Paris arriving from Africa to a cold and seemingly soulless German home. The film uses metaphors of travel – air traffic control, trains, planes and automobiles – it begs a very important question: what is it all for and where are we all really going? This is a very intelligent, deeply moving and heartfelt film and well worth the journey.
The DVD of MY LONG DISTANCE FRIEND is currently available and can be ordered at firstname.lastname@example.org