This article explores the aesthetic and political implications of the 2013 experimental short Mille Soleils (A Thousand Suns) by the Franco-Senegalese director Mati Diop. Placing it within the specific context of Djibril Diop Mambety's legendary 1973 feature, Touki Bouki, which it references directly, the article reveals how Diop (Mambety's niece) crafts an urgent, sensuous, and highly original form of documentary fiction that draws on, and extends, the historical impurity of African documentary. By plugging into the rich intertextual imaginary of cinema and engaging poetically with notions of found footage and the everyday (including that of Touki-Bouki's main actor, Magaye Niang, still living in Dakar forty years later), Mille Soleils, as Williams argues, produces an inclusive wide frame open simultaneously to the personal and historical, social and political. In the process, it both projects a new vision of documentary form and reconceives the very nature of the archive in African cinema.
A Thousand Suns: Traversing the Archive and Transforming Documentary in Mati Diop's Mille Soleils
James S. Williams is Professor of Modern French Literature and Film at Royal Holloway, London, and a Film Quarterly contributing editor. His books include The Erotics of Passage: Pleasure, Politics, and Form in the Later Work of Marguerite Duras (Palgrave, 1997), Jean Cocteau (Reaktion Books, 2006), Space and Being in Contemporary French Cinema (Manchester University Press, 2013), and Encounters with Godard: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics (SUNY Press, 2016). He is co-editor of The Cinema Alone: Essays on the Work of Jean-Luc Godard 1985–2000 (Amsterdam University Press, 2000) and For Ever Godard (Black Dog, 2004). He is currently completing a monograph entitled The Battle Lines of Beauty: The Politics, Aesthetics and Erotics of West African Cinema.
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James S. Williams; A Thousand Suns: Traversing the Archive and Transforming Documentary in Mati Diop's Mille Soleils. Film Quarterly 1 September 2016; 70 (1): 85–95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2016.70.1.85
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