The first trailer for French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut, “Atlantics,” offers a bewitching look at the filmmaker’s already-lauded “ghost love story.” “Atlantics” premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Prix. The film’s Cannes premiere earned Diop a spot in the history books: She became the first woman of African descent with a film screening in the 72-year-old festival’s Competition section, and has proven to be one of the biggest breakouts this year.
Netflix acquired “Atlantics” at the festival, representing the streaming giant’s ongoing push into the African continent — a still relatively untapped source of talent and content. Last week, the film was selected by Senegal as the country’s submission for Best International Feature Film Oscar consideration.
With “Atlantics,” Diop has crafted a fantastical blend of romance, socio-political commentary, and surreal dreamscape all in one, resulting in what is, above all, a tragic love story. The film flips the typically male-centric tale of Africans who undertake the treacherous journey across the Atlantic in search of better lives by telling a story that focuses on the women who often stay at home.
It’s a magical realist fable not-so unlike Senegalese cinema pioneer, and Diop’s late uncle, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s “Touki Bouki” (1973), about two young lovers who dream of fleeing to Paris, leaving their pasts behind.
Per the film’s official synopsis, “After a group of unpaid construction workers disappears at sea one night in search of a better life abroad, the women they have left behind in Dakar are overwhelmed with a mysterious fever. Ada (Mama Sané), 17, secretly grieves for her love Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), one of the departed workers, but she has been promised to another man. After a fire breaks out on her wedding night, a young policeman (Amadou Mbow) is sent to investigate the crime. Little does he know that the aggrieved workers have come back as possessive spirits. While many of them seek vengeance for their unpaid labor, Souleiman has come back for a different purpose — to be with his Ada one last time.”
In addition to its two new original African series (“Queen Sono” and “Mama K’s Team 4″), Netflix is also touting the South African teen drama “Blood & Water,” to be directed by Nosipho Dumisa, the helmer behind the buzzy SXSW thriller “Number 37.” At last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the streaming giant also picked up the Nigerian drama “Lionheart,” which has earned its own spot in history, becoming the country’s first ever submission for Best International Film Oscar consideration.
These moves by Netflix shouldn’t come as a surprise. In December 2018, the company signaled that it planned to seek opportunities across the African continent — a step which is in line with its global ambitions.
Netflix will release “Atlantics” in select theaters on November 15 and on the streaming service on November 29. Check out the film’s first trailer, available exclusively on IndieWire, below.