“Atlantics” director Mati Diop discussed why she chose a cast of mostly young, first-time actors for her film during the Variety Screening Series. The movie is a romantic drama with supernatural elements and was chosen as Senegal’s entry for best international feature film at this year’s Academy Awards.

“As the characters in the script are very young, I knew it was going to be a street casting because I wouldn’t find actors of this age in a professional background. Even if they existed, I don’t think I would’ve gone that direction because I needed the casting approach to be very rooted in reality, like a documentary approach to casting,” Diop said. “I found Nicole Sougou in a discotheque. She was, at the time, a real barmaid. It’s very important each person who gives life to the character has accumulated enough experience connecting to the social reality of the characters to know more than me about [them].”