10 Things To Know About Mati Diop

10 Things To Know About Mati Diop

Mati Diop
Director Mati Diop, accepts the grand prix Palme d’Or award for the film ‘Atlantique’ during the awards ceremony at the 72nd international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 25, 2019. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

French actress and film director Mati Diop and her film about African migrants have made history at the Cannes Film Festival. Diop has become the first Black women director ever to compete for the top prize at Cannes in its 72-year history. She took home the second prize Grand Prix for her haunting movie “Atlantics (Atlantique).”

Here are 10 things to learn about Diop:

Creativity Runs In The Family

Diop, 36, grew up in France and “belongs to a Senegalese artistic dynasty that includes her uncle, acclaimed director Djibril Diop Mambety, and her father, musician Wasis Diop,” Yahoo News reported.

Diop was inspired by her uncle and in 2103, she did a documentary called “A Thousand Suns” that looked at his legacy.

African Experience Storyteller

While making a short film in Senegal 10 years ago Diop began to ponder the tragic reasons why many Africans flee the continent and this was the basis of “Atlantics.”

“I was spending time in Dakar at the time and was struck by the complex and sensitive realities of the phenomenon we called at the time ‘illegal emigration’,” she said. “Once I had finished my (short) film, I felt I still had a lot of dimensions and issues to explore. I had the desire and the idea to tell the story of youth disappearing into the sea, through the perspective of a young woman.”

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Changing Cannes

Diop hopes her win will encourage more filmmakers of color to enter Cannes, considered the world’s biggest film festival.

“Hopefully it will be more and more common that Black people are in front of characters of the same color. Inshallah (God willing),” she told Yahoo News.

A Sad Surprise

Diop was actually surprised she was the first Black female filmmaker winner in the Cannes Film Festival’s 72-year history.

“I hadn’t realized myself. I didn’t know,” she said in an interview. “My first reaction is that I found it quite sad. I thought, ‘Oh, is it?’ So there’s still a long way to go before it becomes something completely natural and normal and something that’s not noticeable, the fact that I’m a Black woman.”

Another First

Her Cannes winning film “Atlantics” was actually Diop’s first feature as a director. She has made five shorts, one of which was the basis for her Cannes entry.

Inside Her Creative Process

When explaining how she made “Atlantics,” she said: “It was written as a fiction but I don’t make this limit. I don’t think it’s our business as filmmakers to draw these limits between documentaries and fiction…The reality that I described is so anchored in social and political and economic terms, of course there is a real texture and embodiment of the subject and my approach it in it that can be documentary-like.”

The film has been described as hauntingly beautiful. “‘Atlantics’ is also dazzlingly otherworldly, with waves of sorrow washing up on Dakar shores. Mama Sane plays Ada, whose boyfriend, along with his shipmates, vanish at sea. After, a mysterious specter haunts many of those who drove the young men away,” The Philadelphia Sun reported.

Jordan Peele Fan

Diop told reporters at Cannes that she loved Jordan Peele’s films (“Us,” “Get Out”). She noted it was important to see that there are other filmmakers of color.

“I must acknowledge that myself, when I was growing up, I didn’t have a Black or mixed race filmmaker who would have been inspirational to me,” said Diop. “It’s important to have these kinds of figures. So if I may someday become a kind of figure like to for younger women, then that would be wonderful. So I think it does matter.”

Africa In The House

“Diop and Malian filmmaker Ladj Ly were the only African filmmakers in this year’s competition as well (Ly took home the Jury Prize for his film ‘Les Misérables,’ tied with Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ film ‘Bacurau’),” OkayAfrica reported.

Solid Body Of Work

In 2013, Diop released her documentary short “A Thousand Suns.”  “The film focused on actor Magaye Niang, who was the star of Diop’s uncle’s 1973 film Touki Bouki and explained how he had come to live as a farmer in the intervening years. The film played at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and was later also programmed at the Museum of Modern Art, according to Wikipedia.

Acting Also

Let’s not forget Diop is also an actress. She made her acting debut in Claire Denis’ 2008 film “35 Shots of Rum,” “playing the lead role of a young woman in a close knit relationship with her father who has trouble leaving him as she gets ready for marriage. In 2012 she appeared in the film “Simon Killer” and was also credited with the story behind the script,” Wikipedia reported.