By Mónica Delgado
Atlantique’s title makes sense with a turn of the screw, a surprise effect that takes the film out of the love drama to render it as a fantastic one. The sea acquires an oneiric dimension and becomes an element of transit between worlds, of the living and the dead. A young woman if forced to marry someone she doesn’t love, and at the same time, keeps the secret of a love affair. Suddenly, the lover disappears with all the men of the community of Ada’s (Ibrahima Mbaye) friends, in an illegal ship of Senegal, in course to Spain, and after that incident, an ambiance of sad women who just lost their couples sets in.
Atlantique goes beyond the Romeo and Juliet drama of two Young lovers that can’t live their love, and becomes an against face of the migrant phenomenon in Africa to Europe, from Dakar to the Spanish coasts, from the vision of these women who stay, like Penelope, to wait in a bar, with music and drinks, waiting for the return of their men. The beginning of the film shows the work situation of Souleiman, the hidden lover of Ada, as a worker who hasn’t been paid in months, while we also see the girl in her familiar space, preparing for her wedding. Diop gives us hints for us to enter her oneiric climates, from an intro with a travelling shot where Souleiman loses himself while looking at the sea, accompanied with the music of Fatima Al Quadiri. It is precisely in these moments where the best Diop appears to bring the film out of a possible and gamy social realism.
This step by Mati Diop, from her documentary Mille Soleils (2013) to this, her first fiction feature, becomes the first film directed by an afro women filmmaker in the official competition. Thus, this allows us to inquire about the course her cinema is taking, and setting some expectations for what’s to come. To reveal more details of Atlantique would be betraying the way that Mati Diop has designed her film, because this jump where ghosts, darkness and weird events appear, concentrates all the magic in her proposal. However, it’s worth watching the film from a feminine perspective, where the women in the story are the saviors and being that hold the return to the natural order of things.
Director: Mati Diop
Script: Mati Diop, Olivier Demangel
Music: Fatima Al Qadiri
Cast: Ibrahima Mbaye, Abdou Balde, Aminata Kane, Mbow, Mame Bineta Sane, Diankou Sembene, Nicole Sougou, Babacar Sylla, Traore
Production companies: Coproducción Senegal-Francia-Bélgica; Cinekap / Frakas Productions / Les Films du Bal
Senegal, 2019, 100 mins