10 Directors to Watch: Mati Diop Makes Waves With Oscar-Shortlisted ‘Atlantics’

Diop, winner of the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, grew up in a creative and inspiring family. She was born in Paris to a French mother and a Senegalese father. Her mother was a photographer, her father a musician and her uncle the legendary Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty. Although she dreamed of becoming a musician and singer, Diop soon realized that cinema would allow her to be at the crossroads of image, sound, acting and writing.

A sophisticated step up from her acclaimed short-film work, Diop’s acclaimed long-form debut, “Atlantics,” allowed her to explore her Senegalese heritage. She says, “It is important for me to put my cinema at the service of underrepresented territories, stories we have not yet heard.” Acquired by Netflix at Cannes, the much-awarded, Academy-shortlisted “Atlantics” is also Senegal’s candidate for the international feature Oscar.

Diop has a parallel career as a film actor, starting in 2008 with “35 Shots of Rum,” helmed by Claire Denis, who is now a mentor.

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“I don’t know how I would approach directing if I wasn’t also an actress,” Diop says. “It seems almost inseparable to me. I think I’m able to better understand [the actors’] needs and measure their vulnerability.” Now that she feels more accomplished as a director, she hopes to give more time
to performing.

Although Diop is unwilling to divulge too much about upcoming projects, she says: “I’m open to all territories and opportunities. For me, the most important [thing] is to make choices that are the most coherent and faithful to who I am, to my vision and to what I think is the most essential and urgent to tell today, without compromise. I’m not going to make another movie just to make a movie and pursue a career. I take cinema very seriously. It’s a powerful tool! I want to make sure I use it to its full potential.”

Agency: ICM Partners

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