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Dahomey's Triumph: Franco-Senegalese Film Wins Golden Bear at 74th Berlin International Film Festival.

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louis Buyisiwe

Feb 28, 2024

Berlin Film Festival prize-winners

"Director Mati Diop, alongside her 'Dahomey' documentary crew, celebrates winning the Golden Bear at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival, spotlighting the film's exploration of colonial legacies and the restitution of African art
Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop, Lupita Nyongo and Christian Petzold as pannelists at the festival

The documentary "Dahomey," directed by Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop, has been awarded the prestigious Golden Bear for Best Film at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival. The film explores the complex narrative surrounding the return of looted African antiquities to their countries of origin, specifically focusing on the restitution of 26 treasures from France to Benin. These artifacts were originally taken during the colonial era from the West African kingdom of Dahomey, now part of Benin, by French forces in 1892.

"Dahomey" is distinguished not only by its critical exploration of colonial legacy but also by its director's previous accolades, with Diop's film "Atlantics" having won a Grand Prix at Cannes in 2019. Diop's work is noted for addressing the colonial past and its enduring impacts, aiming to engage audiences with these often-overlooked narratives. The documentary's win at the Berlinale highlights the growing interest and recognition of films that delve into colonial history and its contemporary ramifications.

The festival was marked by a politically charged atmosphere, with numerous winners and jury members expressing solidarity with global issues, particularly the situation in Gaza.

Kenyan Mexican Oscar laureate Lupita Nyong'o led the International Jury, marking a historic moment as the first black individual to preside over the jury at this prestigious event. She was accompanied by esteemed personalities including Ann Hui, Christian Petzold, Albert Serra, Jasmine Trinca, and Oksana Zabuzhko.

The ceremony also featured acknowledgments of other significant works, including a documentary on Israeli-Palestinian relations and films exploring diverse global narratives, underscoring the Berlinale's reputation as a platform for cinematic excellence and cultural discourse.

This achievement not only celebrates Diop's contribution to cinema but also shines a light on the broader conversation about art restitution and the need for historical reckoning with colonialism's legacy.

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