2019 Cannes Film Festival: Atlantique Is the First Film By a Black Female Director to be Selected in the Competition Section

Thierry Fremaux and Pierre Lescure attend the 72th Cannes Film Festival Official Selection Presentation on April 18, 2019 in Paris, France.
Thierry Fremaux and Pierre Lescure attend the 72th Cannes Film Festival Official Selection Presentation on April 18, 2019 in Paris, France.
Photo: Dominique Charriau (Getty Images)

The 72nd Cannes Film Festival (formerly known as Festival International Du Film Cannes or Festival de Cannes) has officially announced its selections for 2019.


According to Variety, female filmmakers make up 21 percent of the total selections, up from 14 percent in 2018 and 16 percent in 2017. There are four women directors amongst the official competitive selections this year, and 13 in total. Last year, the festival was criticized for its lack of female filmmaker representation.

But, let’s talk about blackness. Do we even want to get into intersectionality and calculate the representation of black female filmmakers? Probably not. This is why organizations such as Diversity In Cannes exist.

However, it looks like we do have something to celebrate (in that bittersweet way that also acknowledges the issue with still having “firsts” like this today).


Sengelese film Atlantique isset in a suburb of Dakar, and follows a woman who’s in love with a young worker who disappears at sea, then returns with several of his colleagues to haunt their old neighborhood,” per Variety. Atlantique is directed by French-Sengelese actress-director, Mati Diop. Diop is the niece of the late legendary filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty, a Cannes alum who won the International Critics Award for his 1973 film Touki Bouki.


Diop’s film will be competing for the coveted top prize, the Palme d’Or. This marks the first time a black female director has been selected in the competition section in the history of the French festival, IndieWire has confirmed.

“Over the past 20 years of the festival, there have been 86 films (give or take) by non-white POC to compete in Cannes main competition, compared to 5 by black directors,” as Grace Barber-Plentie wrote in a 2017 Dazed Digital article.


Congrats to the official selections, and may the odds ever be in your favor.

The 72nd Cannes Film Festival will take place May 14 - May 25. The complete list of 2019 selections are below:

Pain and Glory, Pedro Almodovar
The Traitor, Marco Bellocchio
Wild Goose Lake, Yinan Diao
Parasite, Bong Joon-ho
Young Ahmed, The Dardenne Brothers
Oh Mercy!, Arnaud Desplechin
Atlantique, Mati Diop
Matthias and Maxime, Xavier Dolan
Little Joe, Jessica Hausner
Sorry We Missed You, Ken Loach
Les Miserables, Ladj Ly
A Hidden Life (previously known as Radegund), Terrence Malik
Nighthawk, Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles
The Whistlers, Corneliu Porumboiu
Frankie, Ira Sachs
The Dead Don’t Die, Jim Jarmusch
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Celine Sciamma
It Must Be Heaven, Elia Suleiman
Sybil, Justine Triet


Out of Competition
Rocketman, Dexter Fletcher
The Best Years of Life, Claude Lelouch
Maradona, Asif Kapadia
La Belle Epoque, Nicolas Bedos
Too Old to Die Young, Nicolas Winding Refn (TV series screening 2 episodes)

Special Screenings
Share, Pippa Bianco
Family Romance LLC, Werner Herzog
Tommaso, Abel Ferrara
To Be Alive and Know It, Alain Cavalier
For Sama, Waad Al Kateab and Edward Watts


Midnight Screenings
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, Lee Won-Tae

Un Certain Regard
Invisible Life, Karim Aïnouz
Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov
The Swallows of Kabul, Zabou Breitman & Eléa Gobé Mévellec
A Brother’s Love, Monia Chokri
The Climb, Michael Covino
Joan of Arc, Bruno Dumont
A Sun That Never Sets, Olivier Laxe
Chambre 212, Christophe Honoré
Port Authority, Danielle Lessovitz
Papicha, Mounia Meddour
Adam, Maryam Touzani
Zhuo Ren Mi Mi, Midi Z
Liberte, Albert Serra
Bull, Annie Silverstein
Summer of Changsha, Zu Feng
EVGE, Nariman Aliev

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.



Fantastic news. I’ll be on the lookout when it screens in DC. I’m sure it’ll be great. The newest Dolan film, on the other hand? I’ll reserve judgement. Frustrating to see such a double standard. Films by women, or anyone living in the “Global South,” need to jump through so many hoops to get screened at places like Cannes, while the newest thing that Woody Allen or Jarmusch or Dolan or Malik cough up in the morning will always be screened, no questions asked.