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Mati Diop, a new reference for African women directors


Mati Diop is a Franco-Senegalese who, at only 37 years old, has made it to the big leagues of world cinema. Awarded at the Cannes festival in 2019, she became one of the African filmmakers one should follow very closely. Portrait.

Born in Paris in 1982, where she grew up, Mati Diop immersed herself in a rich musical universe at an early age, thanks to the contribution of her father, the Senegalese musician Wasis Diop, and her uncle, the filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety, who has been a true model for her. She soon decided to move towards a career in filmmaking. In 2006, she joined the Pavillon, the Palais de Tokyo’s artistic research laboratory, and joined the Fresnoy National Studio for Contemporary Arts the following year. From then on, she produced sound and videos for acting shows and directed several short films. In her early productions, the influence of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s work  and other independent American filmmakers clearly shows.

In 2008, she played her first lead role in cinema in Claire Denis’s 35 rhums. The same year, she presented a documentary about the film Touki Bouki (directed by her uncle), called 1000 soleils, at the Cannes Film Festival. Two years later, her short film Atlantiques got a Tiger at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

The consecration came in 2019, when her first feature film, Atlantique, was chosen for the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Grand Prix. As a political and dreamlike story, Atlantic evokes the fate of young illegal migrants from Dakar. Asked during the Cannes festival by our colleagues from La Croix, she stressed the importance for young Africans to identify themselves with success stories. “Maybe I represent a new dynamic”, she said,  explaining further more that she had been “surprised to discover that she was the first black director to be included in the official selection”. She then concluded: “If I become some kind of reference for black women directors, I will be very proud”.

Yassine Benslimane

Africa Women Experts