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Mati Diop Becomes The First Black Woman To Have A Film In The Cannes Film Festival Competition Section

Her Senegalese film, "Atlantiques,"  will compete for the Palme d'Or this year.
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Mati Diop speaks onstage at the 54th New York Film Festival - "Hermia and Helena" Intro and Q&A on October 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
By Paula Rogo · April 20, 2019

A Senegalese film is one of the selections at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, and its director has become the first Black woman to compete for the coveted Palme d’Or.

Atlantiques, directed by French-Senegalese actress and director Mati Diop, is “set in a suburb of Dakar, and follows a woman who’s in love with a young worker who disappears at sea, then returns with several of his colleagues to haunt their old neighborhood,” according to Variety.

Diop comes from a strong film pedigree: She is the niece of the late legendary filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty, a Cannes alumnus who won the International Critics Award for his 1972 film Touki Bouki.

In 2013, Mati directed the 45-minute documentary Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns), which explored the legacy of her uncle’s seminal film.

The Palme d’Or is the competition’s top prize, and Atlantique’s selection makes Diop the first Black women director to have been selected in the competition section in the history of the French festival, IndieWire reports.

The 72nd Cannes Film Festival will take place May 14 – May 25.