Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Saint Omer

Alice Diop: Saint Omer (FR 2022).

DIRECTOR: Alice Diop
YEAR: 2022
DURATION: 122 min
LANGUAGES: ranska / tekstitetty englanniksi
CATEGORY: Gems of New Cinema, Subtitles in English
Festival premiere: 7 Sep 2022 Venice Film Festival
Sortie en France: 23 Nov 2022
Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 14 June 2023

The end credit song: Nina Simone's interpretation of "Little Girl Blue" (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, 1935, from the Broadway musical Jumbo). The track is from Nina Simone's debut studio album Little Girl Blue: Jazz as Played in an Exclusive Side Street Club (1957 / 1959).

Otto Kylmälä (MSFF 2023): "Young writer Rama travels to the small village of Saint Omer to observe the trial of a young mother who drowned her child. In her defense, the woman blames insanity and Senegalese witchcraft, which drove her to her decisive action in the throes of anxiety and hopelessness. During the trial proceedings, Rama is forced to explore her attitudes towards her mother as well as her own budding motherhood."

"The seasoned documentarist Alice Diop directs her debut fiction feature, based on true events, with style and a steady hand. The trial proceedings are filled with much talk and hard facts, but despite the resistance of the prosecutor, the intense courtroom scenes are thrust into the waves of emotions and melodrama. Familiar elements from Diop’s earlier works can be found in this film as well, such as mothers commuting via trains, prejudice against immigrants, and home videos acting as postcards and time capsules for the junctions of family history."

"From the point of view of Rama and Diop, there is a historical layer to this contemporary tragedy, and the core of the event mirrors Euripides’ tragedy of Medea. As a whole, however, the film, like Hiroshima mon amour, is a poetic interpretation of the painful points of recent history. Diop is clearly a masterful successor of directors like Agnès Varda and Chantal Akerman, who like her transitioned from documentary filmmaking to fiction."

"Of Senegalese descent, ALICE DIOP (b. 1979) studied the history of colonial Africa at the University of Sorbonne, where her journey towards film took her from visual sociology studies to the La Fémis film school in Paris. An admirer of Agnès Varda, Claire Denis and Chantal Akerman, Diop has directed many award-winning documentary films, of which Vers la tendresse (Towards Tenderness, 2016), is a brave and raw depiction of sexuality, masculinity and tenderness. Nous (We, 2021), which won an award in Berlinale, is a panorama-like depiction of life in the suburbs. Her fictional debut Saint Omer combines elements from Diop’s documentaries into an intensive courtroom drama, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival." Otto Kylmälä (MSFF 2023)

AA: Alice Diop's fiction feature debut is a powerful courtroom drama about infanticide, a theme that has had huge resonance in classic Nordic literature and cinema, in Finland most unforgettably voiced by the feminist champion Minna Canth in Anna-Liisa. Alice Diop's tale is completely different, because it is profoundly marked by structural racism. There is an overwhelming challenge in trying to make sense of an African legacy and sensibility in the still hidden colonialistic and racist atmosphere of France. The failure of communication is absolute. This was the third festival film I saw today that dealt with Black Lives Matter and also the compelling need to lie to survive in a system rigged against an oppressed minority.

The conclusion of this movie is the most devastating, and all men should see it, because it is about something we do not possess and cannot grasp. I confess that watching it I had for the first time a beginning of finally understanding something that I have in a certain way been aware of for a long time, having read Simone de Beauvoir's Le deuxième sexe and discovered her concepts "immanence" and "transcendence" (and now I also understand in a way why Beauvoir did not want children).

African magic in this movie introduces a new dimension in the primal bond of the mother and the child. In this film I learned for the first time about "chimeric cells" that bind the mother and the child on the deepest level and the neverending chain of generations created on this most atavistic level, beyond psychology, in the dimension of biology and cytology, something far beyond the unconscious. I recently helped my psychoanalyst friends edit a book about the bond of the mother and the child, Tunteiden syvät vedet [The Deep Waters of Emotion]. Now I'm on my way in understanding better what they were talking about.

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