Though an unlikely pairing on the surface, Mati Diop’s award-winning A Thousand Suns (Mille Soleils) and Akram Zaatari’s Venice Biennale commission Letter to a Refusing Pilot are both dreamy, moving, and exceedingly personal quests through time, space and memory.
A Thousand Suns followed by Letter to a Refusing Pilot
Though an unlikely pairing on the surface, Mati Diop's award-winning Mille Soleils and Akram Zaatari's Venice Biennale commission Letter to a Refusing Pilot are both dreamy, moving, and exceedingly personal quests through time, space and memory.
Diop, whose Atlantiques and Big in Vietnam were both featured in Wavelengths, has made her most ambitious film yet with this documentary about Magaye Niang, the lead actor of Touki-Bouki, the 1972 classic made by the director's legendary filmmaker uncle Djibril Diop Mambéty. Shot in Dakar and Alaska, Mille Soleils mystifies as it searches for an origin, its lineage and its transcendent deviations, flouting its own premise as fantasy merges with reality: the sad-eyed cattle herder who embodied the seminal role in Touki-Bouki forty years ago is now filled with longing for the vanished past and a future that was never meant to be. A film of haunting beauty, both sensuous and febrile, Mille Soleils is intimate and raw but also refreshingly quixotic, and confirms Mati Diop as a major cinematic talent.
Taking a cue from Albert Camus' epistolary
essay "Letters to a German Friend," in
Letter to a Refusing Pilot celebrated Lebanese
artist-filmmaker Zaatari conducts both an
investigation and a stirring tribute to an act
of resistance (or forbearance) that marked his childhood memories: the refusal of an
Israeli pilot to bomb a boys' high school on
June 6, 1982 in south Lebanon. Oscillating
between documentary, essay and fiction, this
elegant and multi-layered film combines
personal and archival documents as it seeks
to recuperate historical truth from the
annals of personal reminiscence, laced with
both enchantment and fear. Framed like a
coming-of-age filled with wonderment and
insuperable curiosity, Letter to a Refusing
Pilot humanizes a personal gesture in face of
a greater conflict.