Short Thoughts: Bechdel Test Fest on MATI DIOP

Let Bechdel Test Fest's Simran Hans intro you to the dreamy short cinema of Senagalese-French filmmaker, Mati Diop.

Image: Big In Vietnam, dir. Mati Diop, 2012

A short form celebration that we look forward to every year, we at Bechdel Test Fest (an ongoing celebration of films that pass Alison Bechdel’s infamous benchmark) are thrilled to present a retrospective of Mati Diop as part of this year’s LSFF. Though we’d all marvelled at Diop’s brilliant and diverse body of work, it was Simran who first brought them to our attention after a chance encounter in 2014:

“Three years ago, I saw Diop’s Snow Canon as part of an eclectic short film programme inspired by the films of American independent filmmaker Josephine Decker. From the film’s tentative, flirtatious mood to its tactile cinematography, and the blaring 80’s style horn that plays over its end credits, it was love at first watch.

I’ve since been fascinated by her work behind the camera and in front of it, as an actress. In films like 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, 2008), Simon Killer (Antonio Campos, 2012) and Hermia & Helena (Mattias Pineiro, 2016), she’s a quietly commanding screen presence - a knot of internalised anxieties about her lineage underneath a soft, care-taking exterior in 35 Shots of Rum, both vulnerable and swaggering in Simon Killer. 

As a director, she’s dynamic: her preoccupation with bodies, the way she blurs reality with dreams and imagined memories, and her apparent closeness to her characters are the things that thrill me about her filmmaking. With her next feature film in the works, now is as good a time as any to revisit Diop’s short films to get a taste of what’s to come, and to begin to unravel her vision of what a life faraway might look like.” 

Each of the four short films selected spoke to us in different ways, sparking personal connections to the work, as well as an overall appreciation for Diop’s shining auteurism. After the screening, we will be opening up the conversation to our audience to share thoughts and experiences inspired by what has been seen.

Mati Diop: The Life Faraway, Tues 16 Jan, 18.30, ICA