After wowing audiences around the globe with her short film – the vibrant, unorthodox musical “Saint Louis Blues,” which was one of 5 projects selected, financed and produced under the Focus Features Africa First program (she was part of the very first class, announced in 2008) – Senegalese director Dyana Gaye, has made her feature film debut with “Des Etoiles” (to be released in English-language territories as “Under the Starry Sky”), which World Premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
It’s a project we’ve been tracking since it was announced as one of 22 selected for the annual Co-production Village, which ran from December 11-13, 2011 at the 3rd Les Arcs European Film Festival. It was also one of 15 projects selected for the Cannes L’Atelier in 2013 – an initiative which runs during the Cannes Film Festival aimed at finding financing for projects by upcoming directors that are in an advanced state of development.
And there are still other honors bestowed upon the project, as it traveled from one market/conference to the next, raising financing along the way and attracting talent at each stop, culminating in the film’s eventual TIFF debut.
Shot in 2013, the film’s synopsis reads: “Over one winter, through the cities of Dakar, Torino and New York, we follow the exiled paths of several interconnected characters. For her husband’s funeral, New Yorker Mame Amy returns to Dakar with her 19-year-old son Thierno, who takes his first ever steps on African soil. Sophie, 24-years-old, leaves Dakar for Torino to join her husband Abdoulaye. He is missing. Abdoulaye has just arrived in New York with his cousin through an organisation of clandestine migrants. As the days go by, their destinies begin to echo one another, through the diversity of the cities they are crossing, somehow all united under the same starry sky.”
Its cast includes Souleymane Seye N’Diaye (from fellow Senegalese Moussa Toure’s “The Pirogue”), Babacar M’Baye Fall, Ralph Amoussou, Italian actress Maya Sansa, Mata Gabin, Andreï Zayats and Marième Demba Ly.
“Des Etoiles'” Gaye co-wrote the script with Cécile Vargaftig.
The film already has distribution in France, via Haut et Court; meanwhile, international sales are being handled by Films Distribution. But no USA distributor pick-up yet. Currently traveling the international film festival circuit, the film actually hasn’t screened very much at all in the USA (no more than 2 festivals I can immediately think of), which is unfortunate. But I’m hoping that’s going to change soon enough.
It’s feels like it’s been a long journey, with the film set to next screen at the Toronto Black Film Festival, which kicked off yesterday, and runs through the 15th of February.
You’ll find the film’s trailer below release. But first, I stumbled upon this short video interview with Dyana, shot at the Dubai International Film Festival in which she talks about the film, her inspiration for making it, challenges she faced in getting it produced, and more.
And here’s the film’s trailer: