Directed by Mati Diop (35 Rhums), Atlantiques recounts the odyssey of Senegalese friends who attempt a life-threatening boat crossing. Melancholic and mysterious, the film urgently and elegantly addresses the perils of illegal migration.
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Quiet power. A sort of micro-verite, like a 16 min zoom into (beacon onto) these actual moments being had in Senegal. (Registers a bit, sensorily, like the memory of being there.) And to hear these young men expressing so frankly (because that's how you express your reality) emotions that we recognize get to stay, for most of us watching, mercifully untapped... The lighthouse beacon shots at the end were beautiful.
An intriguing story; however, the film never reveals anything about the lives of its subjects. Who is their community? Where do they live? The fireside dialogue felt like listening to someone talk too long around a campfire. I did enjoy the juxtaposition between the opening close-up of the recorder, and the wide shot of the small boat drifting in the ocean. The use of mixed media was also a welcome sight.
I appreciate handling the difficult topic, which might serve as an eye opener for those looking down on immigrants or opposing illegal (or legal) immigration. There are some truly poetic moments, filled with nostalgia, hope and despair - mainly the discussion by the campfire. It doesn't seem to work well as a whole though - the different parts feel fragmented, awkwardly put together.
Contains individual ingredients that each have their own distinctive feel and poetic potential - intriguing and tantalising - but does Diop succeed in blending them into a coherent whole? Of that I'm not so sure.
4.1 stars. I felt more human for having watched this, which is an amazing thing cinema can do. Anyone who has mouthed off about illegal immigrants should watch this, as should anyone who has had friends to help ward off the darkness. It's rare to find an object that looks more beautiful shot on grainy digital than on film, but Diop succeeds with (what I believe to be) the rotating lamp and lens of a lighthouse.