Augustus


Mamadou Dia

Born and bred in Senegal, trained in film in the US, Dia makes movies about humans who are neither heroes nor losers, yet transform our worldview.

Artist Bio

Augustus is a period piece and an homage to an innovation that changed the world: photography. We are in mid-19th century. Between the Senegal river and the Atlantic Ocean lies a small island called “Ndar” by the local fishermen and traders who have lived here for a long time. As Europeans’ presence in the island grows the slave and gum trades created a polarizing space where the Ndar-Ndar and foreigners mingle, marry and meet each other with equal respect, or so it seems. At that moment, Augustus Washington (1820-1875), daguerreotypist and entrepreneur, sailed with his wife and two children to the West African nation of Liberia. A direct descendant of slaves, he is disillusioned with America’s promise of freedom. He was one of the 16,000 Black Americans who migrated in search for equality. Augustus visited Saint-Louis and is the first documented portrait photographer to open a studio in Senegal. That’s when the film begins.

Through the lives and looks of three different characters we will witness life and its challenges in the island: Augustus, an African-American visitor, Marie, a mixed-race woman married to a French colonial officer and Ndatte, the queen of Walo, the last standing kingdoms in Senegal. If good and bad exist, they will be embedded in each character. They are biased, driven and convinced that they are saving the island. They have a common flaw, they are humans. But that may also be, what will save them.

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Award Year
2024
Status

In Progress

Dia_Headshot_by_Fabrice_Mertens

Mamadou Dia

Charlottesville, VA

Mamadou received the Creative Capital Award in 2024. Mamadou was born and raised in Matam, Northern Senegal. He moved to the US for his MFA in writing and directing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Prior to that, he has worked as video-journalist based in Dakar for international agencies traveling in Africa and Europe. Mamadou narrates nuanced stories, consciously avoiding the poverty porn or resilient “special” superheroes. His first feature film Baamum Nafi/Nafi’s Father was a New York Times pick. It was Senegal’s official entry to the Oscars 2021 and had a theatrical release in Senegal and France. Variety wrote that Mamadou’s “story feels fresh without compromising on drama”. His films have won awards and have screened at major festivals including New Directors/New Films (Lincoln center/MoMA), Toronto, Locarno, Chicago, Fespaco, Venice, Marrakech, and Atlanta. Mamadou shares his passion for filmmaking through teaching reaching diverse students at the University of Virginia where he is Assistant Professor of Practice and in Senegal at the Centre Yennnega created by Alain Gomis, and the Cine Banlieue of Dakar. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Variety, Le Monde, Il Manifesto, Film Explorer, La Libre, Screen International, Slant Magazine, Internazzionale, and Le Quotidien, among others.