Mati Diop (Senegal / France) is an actress and filmmaker. She joined The Pavillon laboratory at Palais de Tokyo (2006) and studied at the National Studio of Contemporary Arts Le Fresnoy (2007). She starred in Claire Denis’ 35 Rhums (2008). As a film director, Diop’s work has been featured at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2009) Media City Film Festival (2010), BFI London Film Festival (2012), MoMI (2013), Viennale, and FICValdivia. Her short and medium-length films Atlantiques (2009) and Mille Soleils (2013) screened at MoMA in 2014. Diop was a 2014–15 Radcliffe-Harvard Film Study Center Fellow where she wrote the script for her first feature film Fire, Next Time. Diop later changed the title to Atlantics (2019), and was selected to premiere as the first black female director in competition at Cannes. The film, a fictional adaptation of her documentary short Atlantiques, won the festival’s Grand Prix (2019). Mati’s short film In My Room (2020), written and directed during COVID-19 confinement, made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
Mati Diop © Jean-Baptiste Mondino, 2019
Atlantiques, 16 min, 2009
Three young Senegalese men sit around a bonfire in Dakar at night, one describing his experience of trying to cross the ocean to Spain. As they reflect on his dangerous journey, light plays across their faces, and everything hangs in suspension. Past lives and future dreams pale against the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean. Melancholic and mysterious, the award-winning nonfiction short urgently and elegantly addresses the perils of illegal migration. Atlantiques had its North American premiere at Media City in 2010, winning one of the festival's top awards.
Made in 2009, Atlantiques is an experimental documentary that could be perceived as a narrative tangent to the longer work. The material covered in the first film depicts a prelude of sorts to some of the key events of the feature, and tethers Diop’s partly fantastical later film to material reality. In Atlantiques, we sit on the beach around a fire as a group of young Senegalese men, shrouded in shadow, talk about possibly trying to cross the ocean to Spain in a pirogue. Diop begins the film with a close-up of a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and the graininess and brownish-yellow tint of the image make the machine resemble an ancient artifact dragged from the sea.
The two main speakers of the group, Serigne Seck and Alpha Diop, debate whether the perilous journey is worth the possibility of finding work in Europe. (Alpha claims that he would physically stop Serigne from going.) The discussion turns to a previous trip that ended in disaster, and there is an easy slippage from hard economic fact to mythological and spiritual belief. Diop visually contrasts enveloping darkness and blinding illumination, emphasizing the film’s primary conflict between a bleak home and the lure of the unknown. – Michael Sicinski
Full article available to read at Criterion here.
Screening co-presented with the Canadian Filmmaker’s Distribution Centre. Curated by Oona Mosna.