Dahomey film wins Golden Bear on Berlin film festival

Dahomey, a film by French-Senegalese director Mati Diop probing the thorny issues surrounding Europe’s return of looted antiquities to Africa, has won the Berlin International Film Festival’s top prize.

Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o announced that Dahomey was the seven-member panel’s choice for the Golden Bear award at a gala ceremony in Berlin on Saturday.

Mati Diop, French-Senegalese director, said the prize “not only honours me but the entire visible and invisible community that the film represents”.

Diop’s winning masterpiece delves into the thorny subject of Europe’s return of looted antiquities to Africa, a narrative woven with historical significance and contemporary relevance. Dahomey traces the journey of 26 treasures from Paris to Benin, symbolising the restitution of cultural heritage looted by French forces almost a century and a half ago.

The film captures the jubilation in Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou, as the priceless artefacts, including a towering wooden throne and lifelike zoomorphic statues, are welcomed back to their homeland. However, amidst the celebrations, Dahomey also confronts challenging questions posed by young people about the fate of thousands of similar objects that remain housed in French museums.

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