Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"The difficult reality of life in Senegal dances with something much more otherworldly in Mati Diop's debut film." | Photo: © Les Films du Bal - Cinekap - FraKas - Arte France Cinéma- Canal Plus internation

The difficult reality of life in Senegal dances with something much more otherworldly in actress-turned-writer/director Mati Diop's debut feature, which though its tone is as restless as the sea that provides its most lingering images, offers magnetism in its central mystery.

Construction worker Soulieman (Ibrahima Traoré) is just one of many of the men who are working on an enormous luxury tower - one that looms in an almost science-fiction like manner over the rest of the Dakar. In his off-hours, he's courting Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), although you could say this is also working for little or no reward, as she is due to be married to the much wealthier Omar (Babacar Sylla).

When wages for the work aren't forthcoming from the boss Ndiaye (Diankou Sembene), Soulieman and many of his colleagues decide to take their chances with the sea in search of "a better life". Diop holds this idea up to the light - is the possibility of death worth a leap into the unknown and sacrificing love? And what of Ada's "better life" in the flashy opulence of Omar's home, where she is, in all likelihood, about to become just another of his material possessions?

Later, possession will become even more literal, as the women are taken over by the spirits of the men. These supernatural elements drift into the film as though on the tide, with inexplicable fires, a police inspector, Issa (Amadou Mbow), who finds himself gripped by bouts of fever and strange turns of events in the night. Even the supernatural needs a certain internal logic, however, and Diop scrabbles to maintain this in places. It's never clear, for example, why Issa is the only man to be possessed by spirits, unless it is to make a scene towards the end of the film more palatable for heterosexual audiences.

Despite its narrative weak spots - with Ada and Omar's relationship and tensions in her friendship circle also under-explored - the mood, gingered up by Fatima Al Qadiri’s unsettling score, remains haunting to the last.

Reviewed on: 05 Jan 2020
Share this with others on...
Love and loss in Dakar are given a supernatural twist.

Director: Mati Diop

Writer: Mati Diop, Olivier Demangel

Starring: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Traore, Nicole Sougou, Aminata Kane, Coumba Dieng, Ibrahima Mbaye, Diankou Sembene, Abdou Balde, Babacar Sylla, Arame Fall Faye, Ya Arame Mousse Sene, Babacar Samba, Astou N'Diaye, Khouda Fall

Year: 2019

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Senegal

Search database: