Dec 12, 2019
We’re just about done for the year, but we couldn’t close out the year without one more review from Keith Lyons. Netflix is just dropping Oscar bait after Oscar bait this month, including today’s film that’s likely to be Senegal’s entry for Best Picture. We’ll definitely let you know if it gets nominated, but the film is definitely well worth seeing if not. For a few other recent reviews from Keith Lyons, check out his reviews for BIRDS OF PASSAGE (Episode #571), SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (Episode #622), and I LOST MY BODY (Episode #646).
Before the review, we’ll have a promo from our friends at the Book of Lies podcast. Every episode, Brandi and Sunni investigate a fraud case or con job, to see what signs were missed, and to help you protect yourself. You can find them on Twitter @bookofliespod, Facebook/Instagram @bookofliespodcast, and subscribe to their podcast on all major platforms, but especially Soundcloud. Don’t miss their incredible assistance during their guest review for Reign of Terror 2019 for 28 DAYS LATER (Episode #624), where they shed some much needed light on a different con job.
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Here we go!
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Hi, Philly Film Fan here with another review for One Movie Punch. You can follow me on Twitter @PhillyFilmFan.
Today’s movie is ATLANTICS, Senegal’s submission for the (recently renamed) Best International Feature Film Award at next year’s Oscars. The film is directed by Mati Diop and co-written by Olivier Demangel and the director. ATLANTICS made history when it premiered at Cannes because it was the first film by a black woman to screen in competition, where it was awarded the Grand Prix (Second Place). It also played the Philadelphia Film Festival, which is where I was able to catch it.
Mild spoilers ahead.
ATLANTICS begins as a neo-realist drama before becoming... something different. The film opens in Dakar where Souleiman (Ibrahima Traore) is engaged in a heated argument with his boss. Souleiman and his fellow construction workers have gone without pay for three months and they are at a breaking point. The workers demand the back pay they’re owed but the boss is conveniently out of town and the foreman claims his hands are tied. The laborers get together and collectively walk off the job. This is a moment that has the potential to be triumphant, “Workers of the world, unite!” and all that, but the film plays it as a tragedy. The men ride silently on the back of a truck as they head back home and you see the deep pain underlying their stoic faces. They have wasted three months performing back-breaking labor without a penny to show for it.
The men return home broke and newly unemployed. It is clear that Senegal has no opportunities for them so they decide to find work in Europe. This will entail a treacherous sea voyage to Spain and for Souleiman it will also mean leaving his lover, Ada (Mame Sane). Ada is inconveniently engaged to Omar (Babacar Sylla), but it’s an arranged marriage and she doesn’t love him. Her heart has always been with Souleiman. At this point a more traditional film would follow the men as they cross the ocean and try to make their way in a new land. But Diop makes an interesting choice to switch perspectives and focus on the women who are left behind.
When I do these reviews, I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible but sometimes they are unavoidable. This film takes a turn about half an hour in and, while this change is heavily implied (possibly given away?) in the marketing, I’ll still try to keep a little mystery. So, Souleiman and the men leave for an uncertain fate on a ship to Spain and then things start to get... weird. Ada goes into a depression now that her lover is gone and her marriage to Omar is approaching. We are presented with a disorienting sequence in the middle of which we get a long shot of the ocean and we hear Ada give an ominous monologue. But the way the sequence is edited we can’t be sure if her words are Ada actually speaking or part of a dream. Things only get more muddled from there and you really need to view the film to sort everything out.
So, I have a general rule about African films and that is “If you have the opportunity to watch one, take it!”. Africa is a huge continent with a tremendous amount of diversity, but it is rare to find African films playing theatrically in the US. Even at art house theaters, which are no strangers to foreign films, African films are uncommon, and when they do screen one, it’s probably from Egypt. Thankfully streaming services like Netflix can bring films like ATLANTICS to your home, so go ahead and take advantage of it!
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
Metacritic: 84 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 7.0/10
ATLANTICS (2019) is rated TV-14 and is currently streaming onNetflix.
This jawn was brought to you by Philly Film Fan. For more movie reviews, follow me on Twitter @PhillyFilmFan where I’m currently participating in (and failing) the #365Movies challenge. That’s P-H-I-L-L-Y-F-I-L-M-F-A-N. Thanks for listening!