Director: Alice Diop

Country: Ranska

Year: 2022

Duration: 122 min

Languages: ranska / tekstitetty englanniksi

Category: ,

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