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Film Screening: Saint Omer

General Programming

dateApril 7, 2023 timeFriday, 6:30pm–9:30pm EDT location Pulitzer Hall (Journalism School), Columbia University
  • The School of Journalism
  • The Eric Holder Jr. Initiative for Political and Civil Rights
  • African American and African Diaspora Studies
  • Alliance Program
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Africana Studies (Barnard College)
  • Institute for African Studies
  • Film at Columbia University School of the Arts
  • Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
  • Center for Comparative Media
  • Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender
  • Columbia Maison Française
  • Alliance Program
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • First come, first seated
Black woman in 3/4 profile with ponytail and side glance

Rama (Kayije Kagame), a successful journalist and author living in Paris, has come to Saint Omer, a town in the north of France, to attend the trial of a young Senegalese woman, Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), who allegedly murdered her baby daughter. Although she admits to killing the child, she cannot or will not provide motivation, claiming it was a kind of sorcery out of her control. Rama’s plan to write about Laurence in a book inspired by the Medea myth increasingly unravels as she becomes overwhelmed by the case and reckons with memories of her immigrant mother as well as her own impending motherhood. In her consummate fiction feature debut, Alice Diop constructs an arresting yet highly sensitive, superbly acted film of constantly revealing layers. Saint Omer is at once a tense courtroom drama, a work of abstracted psychological portraiture, an inquiry into human agency, and a provocative examination of the limits of myth and cross-cultural knowledge.

Saint Omer is France's 2023 Oscars entry. It made the Oscar Shortlist for Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards. It won the Silver Lion Grand Jury prize along with the Luigi De Laurentiis Lion of the Future award. It was awarded the César in 2023 for best First Feature Film.

Alice Diop, born 1979 in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France, is a director of Senegalese descent with a Masters in history and a Doctorate in visual sociology. She studied documentary filmmaking at La Femis in Paris and has written and directed several documentaries. In 2011, Alice Diop's feature documentary Danton’s Death won the Library Award at the Cinéma du Réel Festival as well as the Etoile de la Scam 2012 Award. Her 2020 documentary, Nous, won the Encounters Award at the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival. Saint Omer is her first fiction film.

Maboula Soumahoro is an associate professor at the University of Tours and president of the Black History Month Association (Paris). A specialist in the field of Africana Studies, she has taught in several universities and prisons in the United States and France and was most recently the inaugural Villa Albertine Resident in Atlanta. Dr. Soumahoro is the author of Black is the Journey, Africana the Name (Polity, 2022). She is the 2022-2023 Mellon Arts Project International Visiting Professor at the African American and Africana Studies Department of Columbia University as well as Visiting Faculty at Bennington College. From 2023-2024, she will be a fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris.