The powerhouse denouement is a staggering insight into how colonial legacies continues to affect lives today.
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Saint Omer is a deeply intellectual film – Medea is referenced several times as a frame of understanding – but it’s also heartfelt. There is a compassion to the dispassion: an empathy.
Saint Omer might be fiction, but Diop does not stray too far from her documentary roots. The film maintains a sense of naturalism even during its most tense moments. Diop’s directing style leans observational, as if she is watching and recording her screenplay’s effect on her performers.
Diop’s Saint Omer doesn’t condescend to the viewer by slinking toward black-and-white offerings of good and evil, or broad statements about race or gender. This ripped-from-the-headlines narrative accomplishes a feat far more creative, and a bit less forced. It dances on the surface of these participants, and in their subtle ripples, to reveal the humanity in the seemingly inhumane.
In her narrative debut, Diop has found a way to mix her hard-hitting documentary style with fiction to raise a mirror to society. This new arena, with its wider reach, makes Diop an exciting filmmaker to watch.
With her first fiction feature, Diop lets real material speak with an ancient sadness, with hope offered in the form of Rama who keeps moving, carrying a burden of knowledge into the birth of a brave new life.
There’s a combination of humane sensitivity and intellectual agility at play in this story.