Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Movie with Abe: Atlantics

Directed by Mati Diop
Released November 29, 2019

There are many who don’t have control over their own fates, for a variety of reasons. Societies may oppress those who they deem different or less worthy, and it can be hard for those who aren’t given the same rights as the more powerful to find a voice. When unusual or unnatural events occur, it’s likely that someone on the fringes of society will be blamed first, assumed to be guilty of a crime because it would be inherent in their nature. Those wrongly persecuted don’t often find justice since so much is stacked against them.

In Dakar, construction workers are upset that they have labored intensely without any pay for months, and a group of young men leave to try to sail to Spain, in search of better fortunes. Among them is Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), who is in love with Ada (Mama Sane), who reciprocates his feelings but knows that her family wants her to marry Omar (Babacar Sylla). Reports that the boat has sunk leave Ada miserable, but events begin to occur that make it seem as if Souleiman is not in fact not dead. As Ada tries to resist the forcible matchmaking that is part of her culture, a determined cop, Issa (Amadou Mbow), sets his sights on her while he struggles with mysterious nightly bouts of lost time.

This film might best be described as simple science-fiction that doesn’t need masterful visual effects or grand-scale plotlines to portray the story of a society haunted by guilt, with their demons returning in a very literal way to remind its people of their misdeeds. Ada is an innocent, someone forced by her future in-laws to take a virginity test as a way of rubber-stamping her purity as she enters a loveless marriage that is definitely not what she wants. Issa, who merely wants to enforce the law, believes Ada has done something, though he isn’t sure of exactly what and whether she is in fact more or less complicit than those who give him his marching orders.

This film serves as Senegal’s second-ever Oscar submission for what is now known as Best International Feature, and, like “Félicité” two years ago, has made the ten-wide finalist list. This is a film that manages to tell its story without much fanfare, using lengthy shots of the sea at night to drive home the isolation that Ada feels. A terrific score helps to enhance a somewhat basic story, one that represents a solid cinematic achievement for its producing country and is moderately engaging even if it’s not nearly as remarkable as many seem to think.


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