[PAST EVENT] Fauvel Lecture by Prof. Dima: "Crossings: Undying Love in Mati Diop’s Atlantics"

March 22, 2024
3:30pm - 5pm
Washington Hall, Room 201
241 Jamestown Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Access & Features
  • Open to the public
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In 1954 François Truffaut declared that the film of “tomorrow” would be an “act of love.” Eleven years later, in Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou (1965), director Sam Fuller appears in a quick cameo to deliver the following line: “[Cinema] is like a battleground. There is love, hate, action, violence, death… in one word: emotions.” Jump-cutting forward in time to 2003, Cameroonian director Jean-Pierre Bekolo states in an interview that “Cinema for me is an act of despair.” An immediate question emerges out of these assertions: Could love, by virtue of either its presence or absence, be the key element that places French cinema in a productive, nonhierarchical dialogue with postcolonial African productions?

In seeking to answer this question, this presentation focuses on the Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop and her hallucinatory film Atlantics (2019). While French cinema tends to foreground the theme of love, African francophone productions obscure it to such an extent that it becomes a rather glaring gap. The lack of attention paid to the theme of love mostly has to do with favoring politically conscious commentary—in other words, love is considered an unserious topic in comparison with the urgency of resistance against the colonial/postcolonial machine. However, the same lack paradoxically underscores the effectiveness of colonialism in barring colonized people from access to and enjoyment of fundamental human emotions. It is no wonder then that African francophone films lean into featuring representations of the inhuman, of the less-than-human, such as zombies and spirits. Moreover, Mati Diop’s Atlantics seems to suggest that (postcolonial) love is only permitted by way of death. Naturally, the cinematic language of love that emerges out of the French tradition cannot simply be applied to African productions, so, to pervert Raymond Carver’s well-known title, what kind of love might we be talking about when we talk about African cinematic love?

Vlad Dima is Professor and Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University. He has published numerous articles, mainly on French and francophone cinemas, but also on Francophone literature, comics, American cinema, and television. He is the author of the following books: Sonic Space in Djibril Diop Mambety's Films (Indiana University Press, 2017), The Beautiful Skin: Football, Fantasy, and Cinematic Bodies in Africa (Michigan State University Press, 2020), and Meaninglessness: Time, Rhythm, and the Undead in in Postcolonial Cinema (Michigan State University Press, 2022). His next book, on Ousmane Sembene’s seminal film Black Girl, is forthcoming with the BFI Film Classics series in 2024.

Sponsored by: French & Francophone Studies