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Africa: French-Senegalese Director Ramata-Toulaye Sy Makes Waves at Cannes 2023

Cape Town — French-Senagalese film director and screenwriter Ramata-Toulaye Sy, 36, is the sole first-timer at Cannes 2023 – among seasoned film directors – vying for the coveted Palm d’Or at Cannes 2023.

Sy’s film Banel et Adama was shot in rural Senegal. Sy recounted that the challenges while filming, included sandstorms and bouts of illness among the crew and finding her star, Banel – whom with one month before filming began – Sy found on the streets of Senegal.

‘Banel et Adama,’ is a Senegalese village love story with echoes of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It serves as a directorial debut for Sy who attended the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, May 20, 2023 alongside the stars of the film Khady Mane (Banel) and Mamadou Diallo (Adama).

Sy began writing “Banel & Adama” in 2014, while a student at La Fémis, the French film school. She is the daughter of Senegalese immigrants.

Sy is also only the second Black female director to ever compete for the Palme d’Or, following Mati Diop, also a French-Senegalese filmmaker, whose “Atlantics” debuted in 2019. For the Paris-raised Sy, it’s not a distinction of significance, VOA reports.

Sy said: “I’m a filmmaker and I really wish we stopped being counted as women, as Black or Arab or Asian.”

Sy is also known for co-writing the feature films Sibel (2019) and Our Lady of the Nile (2019) and directing the short film Astel (2021) for which she was the winner of the Share Her Journey award at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and the SACD Award and a Special Jury Prize at the 2022 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

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