Five things to know about Alice Diop, winner of the Mostra

Posted Sep 12, 2022, 1:41 PMUpdated on Sep 12, 2022 at 2:12 PM

Two prizes for a French filmmaker in Venice. Alice Diop scored twice this weekend by winning the Grand Jury Prize and the First Film Prize at the Venice Film Festival for her first fiction, “Saint Omer”, inspired by a news item. At the same time, the documentary “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”, by American director Laura Poitras, was also crowned Saturday with a Golden Lion.

Coming from a popular background, Alice Diop is the director who is rising in the cinema world.

1. Before the Mostra, she had already received several prizes, including a César

The director was until now rather specialized in the documentary, based on the suburbs. In particular, she has signed “Le Tour du Monde”, having as a framework social housing bars where she immerses herself in the habits and cultural traditions of several families. Without leaving Seine-Saint-Denis, the viewer travels around the world. In 2017, the forty-year-old received the César for her short film “Towards tenderness”, where young people from the suburbs confide in their love life.

Then, more recently, with “We”, the director wanted to follow travelers along the RER B route. Her film was awarded in Berlin (best film in the “Encounters” section and “best documentary”). “His cinema is very political,” adds his press officer.

2. She comes from a modest background, in the suburbs of Paris

“When you grow up in the suburbs, you are driven by a desire to leave. Survival is flight.” she confided to the “World”, few months ago. Nothing seemed to predestine the director, born in 1979, in the Cité des 3000 in Aulnay-sous-Bois in Seine-Saint-Denis, to tread the carpets of the Venice Film Festival. Daughter of an autoworker and an illiterate housekeeper , who arrived in France in the 1960s, she tells the evening newspaper that she was marked by the uprising in the suburbs in 2005, following the death of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré: she spent a year in Clichy and made a documentary about it. for France 5 (“Clichy for example”). Alice Diop did a Master’s degree in history at the Sorbonne and a DESS in visual sociology, in which she directed a short film about her father as a memoir.

3. With “Saint Omer”, she deals with the issue of motherhood

Inspired by a true story of a trial for infanticide, “Saint Omer” seeks to explore “the great universal question” of our “relationship to motherhood”, explained Alice Diop to AFP this weekend. The screenplay was written with his editor Amrita David and the writer Marie NDiaye (Goncourt Prize 2009). The 40-year-old, herself a mother, says she used “a sordid-looking news item to question something much larger, which is the relationship that all women and all men have with motherhood”.

She immerses herself in the story of Fabienne Kabou, a Senegalese immigrant accused of having killed her 15-month-old granddaughter by abandoning her on a beach in northern France at high tide in 2013. She will first plead the witchcraft and will be sentenced to twenty years in prison, a sentence reduced on appeal to 15 years.

In the feature film, Fabienne Kabou is called Laurence Coly. We follow Rama, a brilliant university professor of letters, who follows the trial. The film therefore focuses on the trial of the mother, which Alice Diop attended. “She confided from her first depositions that she had dropped her child at sea. Immediately a romantic mechanism was set up”, explained Alice Diop, to the “Parisien”, a few days ago. The film will be released in France on November 23.

4. The production company behind “Saint Omer” has just been acquired

“Saint Omer” was produced by SRAB Films (executive producer), bought by Asacha (supported by the American fund Oaktree) a few weeks ago. SRAB is the production company created by Toufik Ayadi and Christophe Barral, which notably produced “Les Miserables” by Ladj Ly (awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and several Césars, including that of the best film) or even the film “Commuters” (by Kery James and Leïla Sy) on Netflix.

SRAB had already produced Alice Diop’s César-winning short film.

5. Alice Diop is involved in the fight for women

During the presentation of her prize, at the Venice Film Festival, the filmmaker highlighted her feminist fight, in particular that of “women of color”: “Silence will not protect us. We will not be silent anymore,” she promised.

Alice Diop participates in the 50/50 collective for gender equality in cinema and is attentive to the place of black women. “I followed the creation of this association (collectif 50/50, NDLR), attended some of its working groups, and have a lot of sympathy for it. But, for lack of time, I do not participate in its militant actions. That said, preparing for the shooting of my first fiction, I wanted my set not to be uniformly white, as is almost always the case in the cinema”, said Alice Diop, in an interview with “Télérama” at the end of last year.

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Five things to know about Alice Diop, winner of the Mostra

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