Directed by: Mati Diop
Written by: Mati Diop & Olivier Demangel
Starring: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traoré, Nicole Sougou, Aminata Kane
Women stand as the unsung heroes in the life of men and have to carry the burden whenever things go wrong, as explored through this blistering film. Beautifully metaphorical and unflinching with its message, Mati Diop arrives on the scene as a director to watch.
Betrothed to marry a man she does not love, Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) sees the men in her city frustrated by the lack of payment for work of this new tower. One of those men being the person she truly loves, Souleiman (Ibrahima Traore). Frustrated due to the lack of work, the men travel to Spain in hopes of more prosperous opportunities.
African cinema has not received the spotlight it deserves and admittedly currently a major blindspot for me. Mati Diop drew me in with this introspective and mystical story. I came across her first with her touching performance in 35 Shots of Rum but her directorial debut delivers as much of a potent punch. The precision and emotion she captures with this story shows that she wants to take on challenging stories. Focusing on the capitalistic impact of working men in Senegal and how the burden ultimately lands on the women. That alone would make for a terrific film, but then it shifts to mythical and borders on horror with what transpires. It only adds to the impact Diop wants to portray with this story.
Part of that message shows where work for these men resides. In order to gain employment, they must resort to going to Spain and that has a trickle effect on the rest of the narrative. These men are let down by corrupt employers looking to sham their own people, thus forcing them to leave home and become migrants. A global issue which leads to xenophobia and racism for these men once they reach another country seeking employment. That side of the story dominates the news cycles but Diop instead focuses on what’s left behind in their home countries, the women. The individuals that must care for the nation and do it without the requisite support.
Ada, as a character, displays the decisions a young woman at her age must make. She does not want to marry a guy that has been set up for her. Others believe her to be crazy because her potential husband possesses the money to give Ada the lifestyle all of the other girls desperately want. The lack of autonomy and freedom for these women is truly heartbreaking and Ada displays that pain.
Atlantics has opened a gateway for African cinema for me that must be explored. These stories have something to say about the world and justifiably deserve a spotlight. Too often are their stories told from an outsider perspective and director Mati Diop focuses on the inside and what it means to be African in the 21st century. Incredibly enthralling and available on Netflix for all Americans to experience.