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‘Saint Omer’ Trailer: Alice Diop’s Haunting Courtroom Drama Throws Motherhood into a Surreal Tailspin

Diop's first narrative feature is France's Oscar entry this year.

Saint Omer

“Saint Omer”

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Alice Diop is turning the camera inward on the constructs of insanity, motherhood, and infanticide.

Diop’s first narrative feature, “Saint Omer,” is France’s official Oscar entry. Named after the northern French town where the film is set, “Saint Omer” is inspired by the harrowing true crime story of mother Fabienne Kabou, accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter by abandoning her to the rising tide on a beach. Diop gives her own take on the court case through the eyes of pregnant novelist Rama (Kayije Kagame), who sits in the audience of the trial prosecuting Senegalese immigrant Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanga) as part of research on the Greek mythical figure Medea.

“Saint Omer” descends into generational trauma and what it means to be a mother. The official synopsis teases that as the trial continues, the words of the accused and witness testimonies shake Rama’s convictions and call into question her own judgment.

“Saint Omer” is among IndieWire’s top films of the year, with the critic likening the feature to Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”

“With ‘Saint Omer,’ Diop shows an equally unflinching gaze, yet while Capote examined his subjects with a clinical detachment, the filmmaker distinguishes herself here by daring to empathize with her own,” Sophie Monks Kaufman wrote in IndieWire’s review. “Not with her crime, but with the temporary insanity that afflicted a brilliant, marginalized Senegalese immigrant to Paris. Although technically a work of fiction, ‘Saint Omer’ is fiercely documentary-like in its concerns. The questions it conjures are not the anticipated emotional ones, rather they challenge the audience, asking: what expectations do we carry about a person like Laurence? Do we want to believe that she is evil? Crazy? Is she the product of a ‘foreign’ culture? Is there someone else in her life that we could pin this on?

“With her first fiction feature, Diop lets real material speak with an ancient sadness, with hope offered in the form of Rama who keeps moving, carrying a burden of knowledge into the birth of a brave new life.”

“Saint Omer” premieres in theaters January 13.

Check out the trailer below.

 

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