CANNES, France – “Atlantique” by Mati Diop explores the lives of young people abandoning Senegal and risking their lives at sea in order to reach Spain in search of a better future, a movie that was on Friday the focus of attention at Cannes.
The prospect of a life without opportunities in Dhaka forces young people in the film to embark on a maritime journey towards uncertainty.
Diop, the first black woman to have a film in competition at the French film festival, said she wanted to give the ocean a voice. The sea transforms like the protagonist of the film, Ada, a young girl who is about to marry well-off Omar, but who is in love with poor Suleiman, who decides to seek out a new life by taking to the sea.
Diop delves deeper into a topic she already explored in her 2009 short, “Atlantiques,” which she made after returning to Senegal after being away from home for 10 years.
“A lot of young people were leaving Senegal in order to go to Spain. They were fleeing widespread unemployment and they were hoping to get a better life in Europe,” the director told the press Friday.
“The situation really hit me and I decided to use the cinema and the tools I had thereby to depict people I met and depict the situation,” she added.
Her 2009 short followed a single boy but her full-length feature follows the lives of the women who are left behind, waiting in Senegal.
She wanted to show the reality of disappearances at sea, as seen from the eyes of a woman, as well as reflect the Senegalese youth that has gone missing.
Diop, 38, is the first Senegalese woman and first black female director to have a film in competition at the prestigious film festival, a fact that she finds both moving and sad.
“My first feeling to be honest was a little sadness that this only happened now, today in 2019,” she said.
“It’s pretty late, and it’s incredible that it’s still an event today.”