French Film Festival: Saint Omer

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From the archive

This film was last shown on 15 December 2022

Alice Diop’s award-winning documentaries focus on the injustices faced by immigrant communities on the outskirts of Paris, via intimate stories that perform a radical act of recentring. In Saint Omer, her fiction debut, she brings sensitivity and rigour to a courtroom drama inspired by a 2013 news story in which a woman allegedly placed her 15-month-old daughter on a beach in northern France, abandoning her to the high tide.

A young novelist working on a retelling of Medea, Rama (Kayije Kagame) travels to follow the trial of Laurence (Guslagie Malanda), a young Senegalese woman accused of killing her daughter. Pregnant herself, Rama’s own history, doubts, and fears are steadily dislodged as Laurence’s testimony unfolds, exposing the corrosive racism she endured on her arrival in Europe and her isolation from family and society. Listening to Laurence’s past, Rama is forced to revisit her own, and to consider her own contemporary reality as an artist, a lover, and a Black woman in France.

Spare and riveting, co-written with critically acclaimed author Marie NDiaye and Diop’s editor Amrita David, and shot with elegant precision by Claire Mathon, Saint Omer is gripping, arresting, and incendiary in its examination of the violence forced upon Black women by French society. A consummate fiction feature debut, it’s certain to confirm Diop’s place on the international stage.


Alice Diop
2 hours 2 minutes
Aurélia Petit , Guslagie Malanga, Kayije Kagame, Valérie Dréville


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