by José Sarmiento Hinojosa     

When thinking of the film diary, one can immediately recognize several styles that have been developed through the years, each one of that with its own seal and personality that uniquely matches the particular view of each filmmaker. This has been the case, of course, of such dissimilar approaches to the genre, from Jonas Mekas’ film journals to Alain Cavalier’s digital diaries, going through the particular memories of Jose Luis Guerin (Unas Fotos en la Ciudad de Silvia) or less known but equally engaging experiments that mix documentary, film journal and fiction.

In this setup, it is more welcome that such a refreshing view such as Mati Diop’s new film has fallen into the latter category, mixing fantasy and documentary in Mille Soleils. The film accompanies Magaye Niyang, a star of Touki-Bouki, a 1972 classic directed by her own uncle Djibril Diop. Following this path, we are witness of Niyang travel to a special screening of the film, which has a public release in his old town. Niyang seems detached and with a heavy longing from the past, and therefore, the film debris permeates everything with unescapable sorrow and fascination.

Diop film is, first and foremost, a nostalgic travel through memory, time and recreation. It is also a watermark in contemporary experimental documentary, a very intimate portrait of a lost long journey through the past that isn’t returning anymore, a detachment of rejected fame, recognition and connection which is heavily grounded on a legacy that belongs to the past, and that connects directly to a country (Senegal) and its heritage, which is sometimes feel excruciating for the old ones (a testimony such as the taxi scene in the film, where the cab driver longs for changes, and claims that the old generation had done nothing for that).

Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns) and, in itself, Mati Diop’s crucial talent, should be a point of reference into what could easily be one of the most interesting proposals of hybrid documentary cinema which has come from France, and which deals with a strong African heritage. Since 35 Rhums, where she proved her actress talent, Diop seems like a true promise for the following years of cinema.

Director: Mati Diop
Producer: Anna Sanders
Cinematography: Mati Diop, Hélène Louvart
Cast: Djibril Diop Mambéty, Magaye Niang
Editor: Nicolas Milteau
45 Min