In Alice Diop’s latest film, “Saint Omer,” a novelist looking for inspiration attends the trial of a woman accused of killing her toddler daughter — and she’s shaken up by what she witnesses. Variety has debuted the first clip of the drama, which will screen in Competition at Venice Film Festival and as a Special Presentation at TIFF.
In the spot, defendant Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanga) is brought into the Saint-Omer court of law in handcuffs. She is escorted to the witness stand, and asked to state some basic facts about herself for the record. Meanwhile, Rama (Kayije Kagame), the novelist, sits in the gallery. She says nothing but the look on her face suggests she feels conflicted about what she’s seeing.
Laurence and Rama appear to be the only Black people in the courtroom.
Diop wrote “Saint Omer” with Amrita David, who edited Diop’s previous film “La permanence” (“On Call”), and award-winning novelist Marie Ndiaye (“Three Strong Women”).
Diop won the Encounters Award at the 2021 Berlinale for “We,” a doc examining how a commuter train forges connection among the mostly immigrant and Black communities of the Paris suburbs. It is now streaming on MUBI. The filmmaker won a César for her short “Vers la tendresse” and received honors from the Cinéma du Réel festival for “La permanence” and “La mort de Danton.”
“When someone is, like I am, a Black woman, becoming a filmmaker is not common — so far,” Diop told us. “I believe that friendly fairies helped me, and still help me, find my place and feel legitimate, compelling me to keep on going, without a glimpse for the people whom might be annoyed.” She advised her fellow female directors to “believe in the legitimacy of their place as women in the film industry.”
Check out the “Saint Omer” clip below, courtesy of Variety. It will be released in France via Les Films du Losange but no word on a U.S. premiere yet. Venice runs August 31-September 10 and TIFF September 8-18.