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Mati Diop’s Documentary, “Dahomey”, Wins Golden Bear for Best Film at the 74th Berlinale

Mati Diop’s Documentary, “Dahomey”, Wins Golden Bear for Best Film at the 74th Berlinale

Mati Diop - Dahomey - Afrocritik

Diop’s winning masterpiece delves into the thorny subject of Europe’s return of looted antiquities to Africa, a narrative woven with historical significance and contemporary relevance.

By Emmanuel Okoro

Senegalese-French director, Mati Diop’s documentary, Dahomey, has clinched the prestigious Golden Bear for Best Film award at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival. The announcement was made by the members of the 2024 International Jury, led by Kenya-Mexican Oscar winner, Lupita Nyong’o, signaling a significant victory for exploring complex cultural issues on the global stage.

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Diop’s winning masterpiece delves into the thorny subject of Europe’s return of looted antiquities to Africa, a narrative woven with historical significance and contemporary relevance. Dahomey traces the journey of 26 treasures from Paris to Benin, symbolising the restitution of cultural heritage looted by French forces almost a century and a half ago.

The film captures the jubilation in Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou, as the priceless artefacts, including a towering wooden throne and lifelike zoomorphic statues, are welcomed back to their homeland. However, amidst the celebrations, Dahomey also confronts challenging questions posed by young people about the fate of thousands of similar objects that remain housed in French museums.

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Mati Diop - Dahomey - Afrocritik
Mati Diop

Diop’s win was partly a surprise outcome, as her documentary overshadowed works by veteran filmmakers such as Olivier Assayas and Hong Sang-soo. Additionally, it surpassed the favorite, My Favourite Cake, by Iranian filmmakers, Maryam Moqadam and Behtash Sanaeeha. 

Reflecting on her win, Diop said, “To restitute is to do justice. We can either get rid of the past as an unpleasant burden that only hinders our evolution, or we can take the responsibility and use it as the basis for moving forward. We have to choose.”

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Diop

The festival also saw Oscar-winning director, Martin Scorsese, picking up the Honorary Golden Bear for his lifetime achievement. Other winners include Dominican director, Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias winning Best Director for his work, Pepe, with Romanian-American actor, Sebastian Stan taking home the Best Leading Performance for A Different Man. English actress, Emily Watson won the Best Supporting Performance for Small Things Like These, and Matthias Glasner clinched the Best Screenplay for Sterben (Dying)

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