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Dahomey, a Benin Repatriation Documentary Secures Golden Bear at Berlinale 2024

Documentary film, Dahomey, directed by French-Senegalese director, Mati Diop, has won the Golden Bear at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival, trumping entries from seasoned directors like Olivier Assayas and Hong Sang-soo, as well as taking a lift over acclaimed film My Favourite Cake by directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha.



Photo by Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Photo by Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images)


Dahomey is a compelling 67 minutes documentary that follows the sensational 2021 repatriation of twenty-six royal artifacts, looted by French soldiers in the 19th century, back to the Republic of Benin which was formally the Kingdom of Dahomey. The film captures the awe-inspiring moment when these priceless treasures, such as a towering wooden throne and life-sized zoomorphic statues, arrived in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, with details of other collections like the statues of esteemed Dahomey rulers, including King Béhanzin, King Ghezo, and King Glélé, along with the throne they once occupied. Through the lens of a looted object, the documentary raises introspective questions from the perspective of young individuals, pondering the fate of the thousands of artifacts that still reside in French museums. 


Dedicating the award to 'all the women and men who have paved the way,' Diop affirmed in her acceptance speech that 'to restitute is to do justice.'


“I have been working on films like this for about 10 years now. The tangible restitution of works of art, returned by France, took me a very long time to fully comprehend its significance. That's one of the reasons I am a filmmaker: to make it possible for people to understand these complex issues,” she stated during the film's press conference.


Diop stands as the first-ever Black director to win the festival's most prestigious prize. Dahomey is the festival's shortest Golden Bear-winning film since its inaugural winner, James Algar's In Beaver Valley, in 1951.


 


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Dahomey, a Benin Repatriation Documentary Secures Golden Bear at Berlinale 2024

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