Rama (Kayije Kagame), a successful journalist and author living in Paris, has come to Saint Omer, a town in the north of France, to attend the trial of a young Senegalese woman, Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), who allegedly murdered her baby daughter. Although she admits to killing the child, she cannot or will not provide motivation, claiming it was a kind of sorcery out of her control. Rama’s plan to write about Laurence in a book inspired by the Medea myth increasingly unravels as she becomes overwhelmed by the case and reckons with memories of her immigrant mother as well as her own impending motherhood. In her consummate fiction feature debut, Alice Diop constructs an arresting yet highly sensitive, superbly acted film of constantly revealing layers. Saint Omer is at once a tense courtroom drama, a work of abstracted psychological portraiture, an inquiry into human agency, and a provocative examination of the limits of myth and cross-cultural knowledge.
Saint Omer is France's 2023 Oscars entry. It made the Oscar Shortlist for Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards. It won the Silver Lion Grand Jury prize along with the Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of the Future award. It was awarded the César in 2023 for best First Feature Film.
Alice Diop, born 1979 in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France is a director of Senegalese descent with a Masters in history and a Doctorate in visual sociology. She studied documentary filmmaking at La Femis in Paris and has written and directed several documentaries. In 2011, Alice Diop's feature documentary Danton’s Death won the Library Award at the Cinéma du Réel Festival as well as the Etoile de la Scam 2012 Award. Her 2020 documentary, Nous, won the Encounters Award at the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival. Saint Omer is her first fiction film.
We (Nous) by Alice Diop will also be shown at Columbia Maison Française on Wednesday, April 12. RSVP here.
This screening is co-sponsored by the Columbia Maison Française, African American and African Diaspora Studies Department, Institute for Research in African-American Studies, Columbia Journalism School, Alliance Program, Department of French, Film Studies Program at the School of the Arts, Institute of African Studies, SOF/Heyman Center for the Humanities, and MESAAS, all at Columbia, and the Africana Studies at Barnard