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Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story 2019

Atlantics | Atlantique


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About the Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story 💬

Along the Atlantic coast, a soon-to-be-inaugurated futuristic tower looms over a suburb of Dakar. Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), 17, is in love with Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), a young construction worker. But she has been promised to another man. One night, Souleiman and his co-workers leave the country by sea, in hope of a better future. Several days later, a fire ruins Ada's wedding and a mysterious fever starts to spread. Little does Ada know that Souleiman has returned.

ATLANTICS is Mati Diop's feature directorial debut.


Q: Where did the desire for the ATLANTICS project come from?

Mati Diop: ATLANTICS (2019) is an extension of my first short film shot in Dakar, Atlantiques (2009). In this short film, I filmed Serigne, a young man who is telling his friends the story of his sea crossing. It was the ''Barcelone ou la Mort'' [Barcelona or Bust] period when thousands of young people were leaving the Senegalese coast for a better future by attempting to enter Spain. Many perished at sea. In 2012, several months after the Arab Spring, riots shook Dakar, a citizens' uprising took place in Senegal, propelled by the movement ''Y' en a marre'' [Fed Up]. Most of the young Senegalese wanted to oust Abdoulaye Wade and impose his resignation. This citizen awakening marked me because symbolically it reminded us that Senegalese youth had not entirely disappeared. ''Y'en a marre'' turned the page on the dark chapter of ''Barcelone ou la Mort''. For me, somehow, there were not the dead at sea on the one hand and young people marching on the other. The living were carrying the dead within them, who had taken something of us with them when they went. It was one single, collective story. That's what I wanted to express in ATLANTICS.

Q: ATLANTICS is not a film-report on political or social current events because you add a whole fantastical, poetic and cinematographic dimension to it.

Mati Diop: The night I filmed Serigne in Atlantiques (2009), he told me, ''when you decide to leave, it's because you're already dead.'' It's true that at that time, the boys that I interviewed and listened to no longer really seemed to be there. Their spirits, their dreams were elsewhere. I felt that a very ghostly atmosphere reigned in Dakar and it became impossible for me to contemplate the ocean without thinking of all these young people who had drowned.

For me, making a film is not just about telling a story. It's above all about finding a form for a story. This form emerges from a vision and intuition. I wanted to write a ghost film and the choice of film genre arose precisely from the fantastic dimension inherent in the reality I observed, or perhaps simply dreamed up. Throughout the writing phase, I was constantly seeking to transcribe the very unusual atmosphere felt during this dark period.

Q: ATLANTICS has a very feminine dimension. Would you also call it feminist?

Mati Diop: Ada's character goes from one phase of her life to another. From teenager to woman. What does ''becoming a woman'' mean? The answers vary according to cultures and trends. For me, above all it is about becoming oneself, choosing one's life. The first film is often autobiographical, even indirectly. Inventing the character of Ada was also a way of having the experience, through fiction, of the African adolescence that I hadn't lived. Also, even if I haven't directly lost loved ones at sea, I was marked by the collective drama of clandestine immigration. I can identify with the women who suffered from it. ATLANTICS tells the story of a young woman who, after the departure by sea of the man she loves, finds herself confronted by an arranged marriage with an immigrant man who she has no desire for but must accept to satisfy her family. The return of Souleiman and his sabotage of the wedding gives Ada a real second chance. Like an awakening, a second wind. It is also when she understands that Souleiman is dead that she opens up a new dimension of herself and accords value to her own life. The friendship between women plays a very important role in the film. Ada is also given a wake-up call by Dior who becomes a model of a free woman for her, inspiring her and helping her to see things differently. In short, people don't just become emancipated with a click of the fingers or from one day to the next and they don't do it alone. I think you need an ally or allies for that. As I was writing the script, I met girls in Dakar who I questioned about their relationships with men, sex, marriage, and religion. None of them corresponded to a particular stereotype, there was obviously a variation in points of view and various sensibilities (that we find in the various female characters of the film). I loved the honesty of some of them who weren't afraid to say that they were now using men to their advantage and without qualms. I see this phenomenon as a kind of Afro capitalist neo-feminism.

Q: ATLANTICS is also and above all, a love story.

Mati Diop: When I started writing, I realized that besides Touki Bouki, I hadn't grown up with any black couple figures worthy of Romeo and Juliet. Through Ada and Souleiman I wanted to relate an impossible love, in the age of rampant capitalism. A love obliterated by injustice, stolen by the ocean.

Q: The combination between social issues and fantasy is embodied by the women who are haunted by the spirits of their lovers, husbands, or brothers lost at sea.

Mati Diop: It's a film about being haunted, being spellbound, and the idea that ghosts are created within us. In the film, the ghosts of the boys who died at sea return and possess women because they have no tombs, but above all, because they won't be at peace until the money they're owed is returned to them. I thought it was beautiful that their struggle took place through the bodies of the ones who loved them but especially through the bodies of women who also have their own battles to fight. There’s a merging of bodies and struggles.

Q: Can you tell us about the tower block that stretches upwards like a beautiful, disturbing, and malevolent totem and that conveys a certain number of metaphors?

Mati Diop: The tower (in 3D) in the film was inspired by a real architectural project that Wade (former president of Senegal) and Gaddafi wanted to build together. The first solar tower and the tallest in Africa. When I came across a picture of the architectural project, I felt a mixture of indignation and fascination. How could they spend millions on a luxury tower in the midst of such a disastrous social and economic situation? What fascinated me at the same time was that this tower, in the form of a black pyramid, looked like a war memorial to me. In the end, this project was never realized but it inspired the tower in Atlantics. Today, a new city named ''Diamniadio'' is being built on the outskirts of Dakar. I shot there, that's where the film opens. A city designed for an upmarket lifestyle, built by men who will not find their place there.

Interview conducted by Serge Kaganski

Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Mati Diop

Writing Credits

Mati Diop

Olivier Demangel


Mame Bineta Sane

Ibrahima Traoré

Amadou Mbow

Babacar Sylla

Nicole Sougou

Aminata Kane

Mariama Gassama

Coumba Dieng

Ibrahima Mbaye

Diankou Sembene

Abdou Balde

Ya Arame Mousse Sene

Arame Fall Faye

Babacar Samba

Music by

Fatima Al Qadiri

Cinematography by

Claire Mathon

Category: EFA, European Film Award Nominee

Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

Countries: France, Senegal, Belgium

Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story Official Trailer

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