“ATLANTIQUE”, BY MATI DIOP – A DAZZLING TALE

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In Dakar, the revelation of a heroine after the men left for Europe…

It starts as a rant over the emigration of young Senegalese workers very poorly paid (or not at all, for months) for their work on a futuristic tower facing the Atlantic, a building they will never be able to inhabit. Here they are embarked one evening without warning aboard a canoe, heading for Gibraltar and a better life, they believe. But the first originality of the film consists in following those who remain, eyes riveted on the stormy ocean: the girlfriends, the sisters, the mothers of these migrants. A staggering nightclub scene on the beach reveals an all-female customer base, the construction boys, who used to meet the girls there after work, have all disappeared. Something supernatural begins to float in the air… Birth of ghosts.

The heroine, Ada, does not console herself with the departure of Souleimane, whom she secretly loved. Her entourage pushes her to a marriage with an unusually rich man, presented as her only chance.

Mati Diop, 37 year old Franco-Senegalese, daughter of musician Wasis Diop, niece of filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty, signs a first feature film of admirable brilliance and density, awarded the Great price at Cannes. We discover there the many reasons to infuriate the Senegalese people, but also fabulous antidotes to despair. The social finding is heavy: in addition to the misery that drives illegal immigration and corruption in the private and public sectors, the glimpse of the fate of women is terrifying.

“Congratulations, ma’am, your daughter is a virgin,” the doctor told Ada’s mother, after a gynecological test requested by the future husband’s family. Ada is also told that it is imperative that she coax her wealthy fiancé, otherwise « he will take a second wife, even before their first child. » When, with the approach of marriage, everything goes wrong, and jinns (spirits) get involved, even the marabout turns out to be atrociously sexist: for him, the demons take possession of young girls by their navel, that their little ups make the mistake of leaving visible.
As the fire destroys for no apparent reason the overpriced bed on which the wedding night was to take place, a hallucinatory, poetic fire sets the film ablaze – other dramatic twists thwart the fate. The police are confronted with strange zombies with fluorescent eyes that haunt the Dakar night, from the working-class district of Ada to the villas of wealthy real estate developers: living people suddenly inhabited by the souls of shipwrecked migrants , come back to render justice…

The last movement evokes a haunting and magnificent letter, declaration of love and independence sent at dawn by the heroine. For, against all odds, Atlantic ultimately tells the same story as James Cameron’s Titanic: a collective tragedy and the engulfment of a beloved result, at least, in the emancipation of a woman.

Sandrine NDOUMBE

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