Best movies of 2022 in the US: No 10 – Saint Omer

aAt this year’s Venice Film Festival, Alice Diop was handed the astonishing Saint-Omer Prize for Best Film for the first time – an award that would have seemed insufficient had it not won the Grand Prix in the main competition so soon after, and inaccurate under any circumstances. . Diop’s film is merely a debut if you’re happy to dismiss documentary as a younger branch of cinema that somehow doesn’t count; As her first dramatic feature, Saint Omar expands the lucid outlook and fiery social interest of her non-fiction work into new fictional territory, with a jolt of uncertainty. Films like the one we’ve shown Diop have a twist on truth-braiding, story-telling, and intense human scrutiny; Saint Omar is not much different.

The surprise is that Diop’s foray into fiction takes the form of a courtroom drama, among the more strictly procedural and rule-bound genres in the middle—only to be stripped of predictable structures and rhythms, and to centralize turbulent inner feeling amidst a rigid legal process. The case, taken from a real headline-maker in 2016 in France, is stark and terrifying: legally straightforward, perhaps, but psychologically disturbing. A young Senegalese Frenchwoman, Lawrence Colley (Goslagi Malanda, who often twitches a muscle while delivering one of the most dazzling performances of the year) has been accused of murdering her infant daughter. She does not deny the act, but claims sorcery as the cause, and clings quietly to her story over days of frustrating testimony–which Claire Mathon catches so steadfastly, allowing the viewer to take in her little shifts of expression and intonation, is the consistency of demeanor, the sometimes noble turn of phrase, as she repeats her confession Terrible again and again.

The audience, like the jury, can decide for themselves how much to believe it, but Diop isn’t interested in doing a Rorschach test on a fully objective screen. Instead, it posits the conflicting view of a nominally detached observer, successful author and fellow Senegalese descendant of Rama (Kaiji Kagame), who sees Medea-type dynamics in Colley’s story, and aims to write something about it. However, she is not ready for the tacit connection she feels with this notorious stranger, as a woman, as an African and a pregnant mother. Inviting us into Rama’s perspective, Diop’s stoic and wholly unsentimental study in Empathy invites audiences to consider their own affinities and prejudices regarding this condition–how they can bring us closer to or away from an unhappy reality.

The human austerity that Diop brings to what could have been disturbingly emotional true-crime material is quietly radical: the film’s sustained, emotional vigilance may point to its instincts as a documentary, but it also points to the imposition of a non-Western narrative sensibility on a story in which Hollywood shaped our own instincts and expectations. In a script largely stitched from court records, Diop allows herself one climactic speech, delivered with measured calm and minimal table noise, and one musical flourish: Nina Simone’s rendition of Little Girl Blue, played patiently in its entirety, aching with the acknowledgment of legions of unheard. by black women. But otherwise, this extraordinary film will not be pushed toward convention, catharsis or conclusion: Diop, like her uncertain observer, is an ally and analyst of one woman’s unreliable history.

#movies #Saint #Omer

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