Mati Diop: The Dawn of a Thousand Suns
In person: Mati Diop. Time: 8:30 pm



Mon Dec 8 |8:30 pm|
Jack H. Skirball Series
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« Exceedingly personal, drawn from memory, experience, and chance encounters. » – Cinema Scope

Since first drawing attention for her stunning performance in Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum (2008), Diop has emerged as an adventurous filmmaker who mines the edges between drama and creative documentary. The daughter of Senegalese musician Wasis Diop and niece of legendary filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty, Diop broke out with the Tiger Award-winning short Atlantiques (2010, 15 min.), which recalls the life-threatening attempts by Africans to reach Europe by flimsy pirogues. The program also includes Mille Soleils (2013, 45 min.), winner of top prizes at FID Marseille and the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
An homage to Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973), Mille Soleils follows that film’s main actor, Magaye Niang, 40 years later as he searches for Myriam-his co-star and great love at the time.

In person: Mati Diop

Presented as part of the Jack H. Skirball Series.
Curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud


« Diop has clearly emerged as a major cinematic talent, one whose
unorthodox style has surprisingly garnered an impressive collection of
awards along the international film festival circuit. Beautifully
inscrutable, her films are exceedingly personal, drawn from memory,
experience, and chance encounters. Drifting and dreamy, they proceed (sometimes haphazardly) like phantasms of the mind, travelling over bodies that are magnetically drawn together. »
– Andréa Picard, Cinema Scope

Senegal/France, 2009, 15 min, color
Los Angeles Premiere
Atlantiques is a ghost story, no less delusive than her young protagonists’ hopes for a better life in Europe. In the flickering glow of
a bonfire, Serigne from Dakar tells a few friends the story of his
voyage to Spain in an overcrowded pirogue; in the meantime, a
gravesite bears witness of the fact that he actually drowned in the
passage. – The Viennale

Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns)
France, 2013, 45 min
Let’s not delude ourselves, inheritance is a choice. And a quite
demanding one, too. This is precisely the journey young but seasoned
filmmaker Mati Diop embarks upon here, by looking back at Touki
, a cult film made by his late uncle Djibril Diop Mambéty in Dakar in 1972. The plot is simple enough: two lovers dream of a heaven they picture in Paris, and find ways to get there. One follows the dream and goes into exile, while the other chooses to stay at the last minute. A fable with burlesques hints, this Journey of the Hyena (the translation of Touki Bouki‘s Wolof’s title) deals with choices: how you strive to be able to choose and then how, freed by your efforts, you do make a choice. In Mati Diop’s present journey, the story of his family is entangled with the history of cinema and the history of Senegal, as embodied by Magaye Niang, the protagonist of the original epic, to such an extend that temporalities juxtapose and 40-year-old characters make a come-back (along with their typical features, like the famous buffalo-motorcycle). Somewhere between naturalism and fantasy, tribute and investigation, humor and melancholy, Mille Soleils keeps the promise of its title, and shines with so many lights.
– Jean-Pierre Rehm, FID Marseille

Mati Diop, born in 1982, lives and works in Paris. She directed her first film, the 52 min narrative Last Night, in 2004, that was shown at the Cinémathèque française. In 2006, she joined the Pavillon artistic laboratory of the Palais de Tokyo (Paris) where she made several videos: Ile artificielle-Expédition (2006) is selected at the Cinéma du Réel Festival in Paris and shown in a number of exhibition spaces (Espace Louis Vuitton and Palais de Tokyo in Paris and Delhi Cultural Center in India). She entered the contemporary arts studio in Le Fresnoy in 2007. She made Atlantiques (2009) that received the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival as well as a number of other awards in the Media City Festival (Ontario, Canada), the Ann Arbor Film Festival (Michigan, US), the Cinéma du Réel. It was shown in competition in the Toronto, New York, Belfort, IndieLisboa and
Corsicadoc film festivals.
In 2010 she directed the short Big in Vietnam and in 2011 another short, Snow Canon, that was shown in competition at the Venice Film Festival. Her latest project Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns, 2013) is a homage to her uncle, the legendary Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty (1945-1998).
She played the central role of the daughter in Claire Denis’s loose remake of Ozu’s Late Spring, 35 rhums (35 Shots of Rum, 2008), for which she received the Best Actress Award in the MK2/Close Up Young Talents Festival. After appearing in Sébastien Betbeder’s featurette Yoshido (2010), she was cast as the female lead in Antonio Campos’s Simon Killer (2011).
She is currently a Radcliffe-Harvard Film Study Center Fellow/David and Roberta Logie Fellow.

« The world premiere of Mille soleils at the 2013 edition of the
International Cinema and Documentary Festival of Marseille on July 6,
where it won the grand prize for the international competition,
confirms Mati Diop as a defining figure of new cinematographic forms.
‘The world is old, but the future comes from the past.’ Over and over
again the griots repeat this beginning of the Sundjata epic. [Mati Diop]
navigates through Dakar in the footprints of Touki Bouki, a film that
touches her deeply but which her grandfather summarizes by saying,
‘It is our history.’ Here is a story of a family, of handing down, of
heritage, of rupture, where personal history mixes with the grand
History of cinema. » – Olivier Barlet, Africultures

Read the entire article on:

Interview with Mati Diop (excerpts)
« Mille soleils is a project that came from far away, born of an
introspective quest, from questions about the importance of cinema in
my life and that of my family, about the origins of my desire to make
films, and also from my relationship with Africa. The project was born
in 2008, shortly after the end of the shoot for Claire Denis’ 35 rhums,
in which I act. It was an experience that profoundly affected me. It
was also the year that marked the tenth anniversary of the death of
my uncle, Djibril Diop Mambéty. It was a period in which I was led to
think about and measure this loss, which resulted in long
conversations with my father about the life and death of Djibril, on his
films, especially Touki Bouki. This is when I discovered the thousand
stories hiding behind Touki Bouki-our family’s history, but also the
history of the film’s stars Magaye Niang and Myriam Niang. My film
project was born in 2008 but I didn’t make it until 2013. It was
therefore constructed in stages, alongside Atlantiques, Big in Vietnam
and Snow Canon, the films I made between 2009 and 2012. After
having found and affirmed my own cinematographic language, I was
ready to make Mille soleils and to look Touki Bouki straight in the eye.
It bears reminding that Mille soleils is a fiction. The sole element
of reality that I kept in my film is that Magaye Niang stayed in Dakar
and Myriam Niang left for Alaska. From there I took fictional liberties,
but the phone conversation that is heard in the film remains quite
faithful to the real conversation that I recorded between the two
actors. Nothing is true and nothing is false in my film. The friction and
two-way shuttling between reality and myth is the main subject of my
I talk about exile, identity, and desire like intimate experiences
because that’s what they are above all. In regards to the spaces, it’s
the notion of territory that is important to me, as they are
interconnected to the interiority and trajectory of a character. My
characters rarely find themselves where they want to be in the world:
there is always somewhere to escape from, to return to, or to conquer by means of the imagination.
I know that acting has enormously enriched and rendered more
concrete my relationship to writing and to my actors but I cannot
precisely explain this relationship. My experience working with Claire
Denis on 35 rhums has particularly affected me. I wouldn’t know
where what she conveyed to me begins or ends. It’s huge. Claire is
just as captivating as her films, as beautiful, as secretive. »
Read the entire article by Andrea Picard and the interview on:

Funded in part with generous support from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Special thanks to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S.
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