Mati Diop, the daughter of Senegalese jazz-folk musician Wasis Diop, recently made history as the first black woman to direct a film featured at the Cannes Film festival. Diop’s debut feature, Atlantics, which was described by Variety as “a romantic and melancholy film, part social commentary, part ghost tale, that works best in its evocation of loss and female solidarity,” won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival 2019. Atlantics is a fictional adaptation of Diop’s 2009 documentary, Atlantiques that followed two friends from Senegal as they made a life-threatening boat crossing to Europe. The documentary won the Rotterdam International Film Festival's Tiger Award for Short Film and a Top Prize at Media City Film Festival during her first North American appearance in 2009.
Set in Dakar, Senegal, Atlantics follows the story of a young woman, Ada, getting ready to marry another man after her lover leaves. “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. 17-year-old, Ada, secretly grieves for her love Souleiman, 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 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.”