Dahomey 2024

Directed by Mati Diop Visions

In 2021, 26 plundered artefacts from the Kingdom of Dahomey are returned to the modern day nation of Benin. Mati Diop’s dreamlike documentary skilfully examines the debate surrounding the repatriation of stolen cultural treasures.

Aug 08

Hollywood Avondale

Aug 10

The Civic

France In English, Fon and French with English subtitles
68 minutes
documentary film exempt from NZ Classification labelling requirements



Eve Robin, Judith Lou Levy, Mati Diop


Joséphine Drouin-Viallard


Gabriel Gonzalez


Wally Badarou, Dean Blunt


Gildas Adannou, Habib Ahandessi, Joséa Guedje


Berlin, Sydney 2024


Best Film, Berlin International Film Festival 2024


Return to Africa. Casting a fascinating cinematic spell, Mati Diop, winner of the Cannes Grand Prix in 2019 with Atlantics, brings to life and gives voice to an ancient statue of King Gezo, ruler of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in Dahomey, winner of the Golden Bear at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival. 

French colonial soldiers purloined the wooden artifact, together with another 25 sculptures, in 1892. In 2021, the French government returned the treasure to what today is the Republic of Benin. With her deceptively straightforward documentary, Diop chronicles the journey home of these symbols from the trauma of colonialism.  

As the royal treasures of Dahomey surge from the vaults of a French museum, as if from a crypt, they are almost sacredly cleansed and placed in craters, while the charismatic and cavernous voice of King Gezo lyrically and ironically muses on their fate, as if he were a griot, a traditional West African storyteller. When the sculptures reach Benin, Diop switches from the voice of King Gezo, emblem of a stolen past, steeped in myth and intangible wonder, to the surprising polyphony of a thought-provoking debate among university students, who passionately reflect on the meaning of this repatriation. Far from staid academic discourse, Mati Diop’s Dahomey provides a lucid and nuanced contribution to the debate on post-colonialism, in Africa and everywhere. — Paolo Bertolin 

“At just over an hour, Diop’s strange, captivating and rigorously intellectual film leaves a mighty impression well beyond its compact length. Joséphine Drouin-Viallard’s intimately attentive cinematography leads us from meditative darkness up to the stars and back to earth in the glorious sunshine illuminating Benin’s magnificently attired citizens. Musing on destiny, place and belonging, it spans centuries in the blink of a statue’s eye. Composers Wally Badarou and Dean Blunt’s heartful score rumbles like that statue’s call in a film as rich in ideas as any king’s treasure.” — Stephen A. Russell, Time Out