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Slideshow

SAINT OMER

Opens Friday, January 13

DIRECTED BY ALICE DIOP

When asked why she killed her infant daughter, the accused, a young Senegalese-French woman – a PhD student writing on Wittgenstein – answers, “I don’t know.  I hope this trial can help me understand.” What would compel such a shocking act, and why would an accomplished writer obsessively attend the woman’s trial? The complex mysteries at the heart of this absorbing, wholly original take on both the courtroom drama and the African immigrant experience, unfold like a Russian nesting doll of gazes and projections. Is the accused a liar, a victim, a sorceress, or all of the above? In her first narrative feature, Senegalese-French documentarian Alice Diop uses her sharp eye for political realism to craft a captivating portrait of motherhood amid cultural isolation.

122 MIN.     FRANCE     SUPER
 

Reviews

“Compelling and finely wrought. Plumbs the depth of the mother-child dyad and the anguish of separation from family, culture, and self. It is rare for a film to pack so many layers of meaning into its first two images, but Diop’s storytelling choices are extraordinary from beginning to end. Guslagie Malanda’s performance contains worlds, as it were. As expansive as it is claustrophobic, SAINT OMER tears the heart and boggles the mind.”
– Amy Taubin, Artforum

“A quietly momentous French courtroom drama that subtly but radically rewrites the rules of the game.Diop’s extraordinary fiction debut… casually reinvents a wrenching new grammar for the true-life tragedy genre. Deceptively austere, extraordinarily multifaceted fiction.  Positioned on a mesmerizingly steady axis, stretching as though along a fascinated gaze, between the defendant and a courtroom observer. Forged in the hypnotically absorbing, painterly long takes of Claire Mathon’s inscrutably calm camera, edited by Amrita David with an intimacy that feels at times like the slow thump of your heartbeat… the film inhabits a shockingly strange and sad story from inside. (With) Kayjie Kagame’s superbly still and watchful performance… (and) a riveting Guslagie Malanda. Lit like a Rembrandt portrait in an ocher cardigan… The constraint rumble of covert racist prejudice invades even this scrupulously run courtroom. The slow, deepening scorch of SAINT OMER is about how little we can ever truly know anyone.”
– Jessica Kiang, Variety

“A visually arresting courtroom set drama… shot with beguiling patience.”
– Marya E. Gates, RogerEbert.com

“Won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and has been chosen as France’s official submission for the Oscars. Diop reconstructs the mise en scene of the courtroom with formal precision, but gives this space of purported objectivity the defiantly subjective point of view of a Black woman… Brought to life in a mesmerizing performance by Guslagie Malanda, Laurence is the cipher at the heart of this film, a figure so impenetrable that we do not know whether to sympathize with her or condemn her.”
– Devika Girish, Film Comment

Film Forum