A first-time filmmaker makes a mark in Cannes competition with a Senegalese drama

CANNES, France (AP) — Most filmmakers within the Cannes Film Festival’s top-rung competitors lineup are well-known administrators who’ve been round for many years. One dramatic exception this yr is Ramata-Toulaye Sy, a French-Senegalese filmmaker whose first movie, “Banel & Adama,” landed among the many 21 movies competing for the Palme d’Or.

“It’s only now that I realize that being in competition means being in a competition,” Sy stated, laughing, in an interview shortly after “Banel & Adama” premiered in Cannes. “Now that we’re really in the middle of it, I realize there’s a lot of passion going around.”

Sy, 36, is the only first-timer in Cannes’ principal lineup this yr. She can be solely the second Black feminine director to ever compete for the Palme, following Mati Diop, additionally a French-Senegalese filmmaker, whose “Atlantics” debuted in 2019. For the Paris-raised Sy, it’s not a distinction of significance.

“I’m a filmmaker and I really wish we stopped being counted as women, as Black or Arab or Asian,” stated Sy.

In “Banel & Adama,” additionally the one Africa-set movie competing for the Palme this yr, Sy crafts a radiant and languorous fable tinged with delusion and tragedy.

Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo) are a deeply in love married couple dwelling in a small village in northern Senegal. In their intimate romantic idyll, they want to draw back from the native traditions. Adama is about to develop into village chief however is tired of doing so. Banel desires of dwelling outdoors the village, in a house buried underneath a mountain of sand.

While Banel and Adama slowly work to comb away the sand, their craving to dwell on their very own causes angst within the village, particularly when a draught arrives that some take as a curse for his or her independence. Though usually opaque, the movie stays largely with the psychology of Banel, whose single-mindedness grows more and more darkish.

“I was quite reluctant at the start to acknowledge that Banel is me,” says Sy. “Now I have to confess that it’s definitely me. I see myself, my questions, my struggle in her journey. How to do become an individual inside a community is really my own question.”

Sy started writing “Banel & Adama” in 2014 as a pupil at La Fémis, the French movie faculty. Sy, the daughter of Senegalese immigrants, says she was first drawn to literature. Novels like Toni Morrison’s “Sula” and Elena Frenate’s “My Brilliant Friend” impressed “Banel & Adama.”

“The love story was a pretext for to deal with myth,” she says. “I wanted to have this kind of mythological female character that you find in Greek tragedy.”

Sy co-wrote Atiq Rahimi’s “Our Lady of the Nile” and Çagla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti’s “Sibel” — each of which performed at worldwide festivals. Her first brief movie, “Astel,” was well-received.

But little ready her for the stresses of taking pictures in rural Senegal. Along with warmth, sandstorms and bouts of sickness among the many crew, Sy struggled to seek out her Banel. In the tip, she discovered Mane whereas strolling round.

“We had all the cast except for her. We started five months before shooting and one month before shooting we still didn’t have her. One day I was walking down the street and my eyes locked on this girl,” says Sy. “It was the way that she looked at me. Her gaze had something a bit wise and a bit crazy.”


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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