ATLANTICS – Review by Loren King

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What a stunning, original, visually striking feature debut from Mati Diop. Senegal’s entry for Best International Film Oscar consideration,Atlantics made history and generated wide interest when it won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Not just that, but Diop, who is of African and French heritage, became the first black woman to direct a film featured in the Festival’s Competition section. Nothing about Atlantics, a love story and surreal social commentary, disappoints after that buildup. It’s an extraordinary achievement. When one realizes that Diop first broke into films as a young actresses who starred in Claire Denis’ 2008 drama 35 Shots of Rum, her strikingly singular directing voice makes perfect sense. It underscores the power and far-reaching influence of women directors. Diop, who was born and raised in Paris, in 2009 made a short film called Atlantiques about a young African man enduring a dangerous sea crossing in search of a better life. This same subject figures only slightly into her new film. Atlantics is a more complex, ambitious story, this time told from the point of view of several women, young and old, living in the coastal African community from which a group of young men suddenly and without fanfare set off in a boat. The film follows the aftermath of what happens to the women, including teenager Ada (Mama Sané) who is in love with one of the young men, Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), but betrothed to another. When a fire destroys her wedding bed and mysterious malady befalls many in the town, the film’s love story widens to an examination of cultural mores and social and political injustice.

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Loren King

Loren King's features and film reviews appear regularly in the Boston Globe, Boston Spirit magazine and the Provincetown Banner. She writes Scene Here, a localfilm column, in the Boston Sunday Globe. A member of the Boston Society of Film Critics since 2002, she served as its president for five years.