In a popular suburb of Dakar, workers on the construction site of a futuristic tower, without pay for months, decide to leave the country by the ocean for a better future. Among them is Souleiman, the lover of Ada, promised to another.
Senegal’s entry for the newly retitled ‘Best International Film’ is an arresting, immersive piece of filmmaking from first time director Mati Diop, telling an unconventional tale against the backdrop of the migrant crisis. Set in Dakar on the Atlantic coast in Senegal, ‘Atlantics’ tells the story of Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), a young woman who is betrothed to the wealthy Omar (Babacar Sylla), yet loves Souleiman (Ibrahima Traore), a poor construction worker. However ‘Atlantics’ is not a love triangle and its plot unfolds in surprising and effective ways, aided by an eerie, atmospheric score from Fatima Al Qadiri.
Souleiman is a construction worker helping to build a futuristic looking tower in Dakar, yet he and his colleagues have not been paid for months by the unscrupulous building owners. As a result they decide to leave the country in search of a better future, travelling by boat towards Europe. Following this, a series of strange events start occurring, starting with a suspected arson attack on the night of Omar and Ada’s wedding, which brings a young detective into their orbit, and Ada finds herself accused of being involved in some way. One of the things I really liked about ‘Atlantics’ was the way in which it successfully blends the stranger elements of the story with grounded social commentary about the situations that drive people to make a dangerous trip in search of a better life. It’s a tonal balancing act and Mati Diop executes it perfectly. It’s also a love story and a medidation on grief and how it manifests itself, and in Mame Bineta Sane as Ada, Diop has a talented young actress perfectly equipped to convey these emotions.
Showcasing exciting new talent both in front of and behind the camera, ‘Atlantics’ is a haunting drama from debutant Mati Diop that manages to tell a compelling story with real purpose, and I was really taken by it.
Directed By: Mati Diop
Starring: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Traore, Nicole Sougou, Aminata Kane, Mariama Gassama, Coumba Dieng, Ibrahima Mbaye, Diankou Sembene, Babacar Sylla and Abdou Balde