74th Berlinale | Mati Diop’s documentary Dahomey wins the Golden Bear

(Berlin) The Berlinale on Saturday crowned a Franco-Senegalese director, Mati Diop, for a documentary on the burning issue of the restitution by former colonial powers of works of art stolen in Africa.

By rewarding a film which directly addresses the postcolonial question, the jury chaired by Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o, the first black personality to occupy this prestigious position, remained faithful to the political tradition of this festival.

“As a Franco-Senegalese, Afro-descendant filmmaker, I have chosen to be one of those who refuse to forget, who refuse amnesia as a method,” declared Mati Diop when receiving her prize.

“I stand in solidarity with the Senegalese who are fighting for democracy and justice,” she added, before also displaying her “solidarity with Palestine”.

Dahomey recounts the restitution in November 2021 in Benin of 26 works looted in 1892 by French colonial troops. A movement started over the last five years by the former Western powers, including France, Germany and Belgium.

Mati Diop, daughter of a Senegalese musician, Wasis Diop, and a mother working in art, who was born and raised in Paris, had already won at Cannes in 2019 for Atlantic the Grand Prix, the highest distinction after the Palme d’Or.


Documentarian Mati Diop

This is the second African film to receive the Golden Bear (after the South African U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (Carmen of Khayelitsha) by Mark Dornford-May in 2005). She succeeds Frenchman Nicolas Philibert, Golden Bear last year.

Mati Diop also adds her name to a young guard of French directors who have won major awards in recent years: Julia Ducournau (Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2021), Audrey Diwan (Golden Lion in Venice the same year), Alice Diop (two awards in Venice in 2022) and of course Justine Triet, who has just dominated the Césars after winning the Palme d’Or last year in Cannes and is in the running for the Oscars.

French filmmaker Bruno Dumont won the jury prize for The Empire.

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