The West never sees the Middle Eastern and African world as what it really is. There is an inbred generalization that is almost impossible to forget. Even when you know that it is false, your mind will not always have actual images to put next to that thesis. Godard’s La Livre d’ Image dedicates a chapter to the violence of representation, pointing out how it’s nearly impossible for Westerners to represent cultures that are not Western, grounded in the inherent gap in both language and perception of other cultures. The fact that Africa is often seen as a monolithic setting, something homogeneous, even though it’s a diverse, culturally rich continent, should be proof enough of a general unwillingness to destroy and actively tackle images of prejudice in broad parts of society. In consequence, it’s no wonder there is so little compassion towards thousands of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, who are in search of a better life. They are seen as one.
In Mati Diop’s ravishing Atlantique, a group of construction workers are repeatedly denied their money for their work on a giant futuristic building. They struggle to support their families and loved ones and set out to sea to find better opportunities. The women remain, one of them being Ada. She is in love with the young Souleiman, but has to face her arranged marriage after Souleiman disappears with the others. What unfolds from here is both a ghost story and a love story from the perspectives of the women left behind. Continue reading “‘Atlantique’ is a swoon-worthy debut by Mati Diop”