- Katherine McLaughlin
- 17 May 2019
Cannes 2019: Striking debut from actress-turned-director Mati Diop that immerses itself in the refugee crisis
Director Mati Diop returns to the shores of Dakar, Senegal to revisit the lost souls of her lyrical 2009 docufiction short about the men that set sail across the treacherous ocean in search of brighter prospects in Spain. With this narrative feature, she turns the tides in an eerie reflection on the impact these fateful journeys have on the women they leave behind. Atlantique is a damning supernatural horror about the refugee crisis, patriarchy and the way greedy capitalism sucks the life out of disenfranchised workers.
Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) and Souleiman (Traore) are young and in love; alas, she is promised to another and he is in huge debt due to the fact that his construction job hasn't paid out in four months. Out of sheer desperation, Souleiman takes to the sea with his co-workers, leaving Ada heartbroken and inconsolable. On her wedding night, an inexplicable fire breaks out, resulting in a criminal investigation that leads to strange and haunting places.
An incredibly accomplished debut feature from the first black woman to compete in the Cannes competition strand, Diop (best known as an actress in films such as Simon Killer and Claire Denis's 35 Shots of Rum) takes exciting visual, sonic and genre risks that pay off. She strikes a melancholic mood that places emphasis on the significance of the ocean to her characters, as hope, grief and destruction ebb in and out of their lives. The way she shoots the watery locale, with the moonlight beaming down is both gorgeous and oppressive.
The expressive score is by turns magical and sinister, as it whips up off-kilter sounds and, though you can see the influence of Denis in the sorrow-filled beachside club scenes that sparkle with green hues, the imagery feels distinctly Diop's own otherworldly invention. Her smart and multi-layered approach not only confronts major global political themes, it imbues their collision with humanity with deeply felt raw emotion that her able and convincing cast works wonders with.
Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2019. General release TBC.