Alassane Sy

I like the idea of using images not just to tell stories, but to change things. Cinema is an incredible art.

Founder of Nataal magazine, Alassane Sy is best known as an actor and director. A symbol of multiculturalism and a pioneer of Africa’s major artistic trends, this Mauritanian living in London is keen to promote cinema in Senegal.

Published on 14/07/2020

2 min

As a child Alassane Sy fled Mauritania during the conflict between his native country and Senegal which started in 1989. He grew up in Senegal before moving to France and starting a modelling career between London and New York. It was during a photo session that he met Andrew Dosunmu, a Nigerian photographer who was preparing to make Restless City. Immediately convinced of Alassane Sy's potential, he offered him the main role in the film. Restless City, which was a great success at festivals, served as a springboard for Alassane Sy, who landed a lead role in Mediterranea (2015) then The Drifters (2016), and from 2015 directed his first short film, Marabout, about the discoveries of a police officer who is the victim of a robbery.

As he continued to build his career, the emerging actor and director added a new string to his bow in 2018 by founding lifestyle magazine Nataal, aimed at an international audience, dealing with current events in music, fashion and art and celebrating African creativity.

While Alassane Sy was strongly influenced by Europe and the United States when he worked there as a model and actor, he is keen to participate in projects that highlight both the vitality of contemporary Africa via his medium Nataal, and Senegal, through his film projects.

After playing a migrant in Mediterranea (2015) and Séga (Sega, 2018), he is particularly interested in radicalism and religious extremism, and has expressed this notably by playing a moderate imam in Le Père de Nafi (Nafi’s Father, 2019). Influenced by this theme, on two occasions he recounts the manipulations and influence of marabouts in Senegal in his short films – Marabout (2015), Fallou (2016).

He is currently preparing his first feature film, Lutteurs (Wrestlers). The film maker aims to make a popular film by telling the story of a sportsman who must honour his Senegalese community. 

Although the film maker lives in London, he makes all his films in Senegal where he has forged a great reputation, from Restless City (2011) — his first film as an actor receiving a standing ovation at Sundance — to Marabout (2016), his first short film which won the Tanit d’Or award at the Carthage Festival.

Revealed internationally at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival with the screening of Mediterranea during Critics’ Week, Alassane Sy has since won several prizes for best actor for his roles in Sega (2018) at the Dakar Short Film Festival, and his notable performance in Le Père de Nafi in 2019 at the Vues d’Afrique Festival in Montreal. While his reputation is already established in Senegal, he is still considered an up-and-coming young film maker internationally, who is regularly invited to festivals.

  • 2011


    Alassane Sy lands his first film role as the main character in Restless City.

  • 2015


    Alassane Sy goes behind the camera and directs his first short film: Marabout. That same year, he gets noticed at the Cannes Film Festival thanks to Mediterranea being screened at Critics’ Week.

  • 2018


    He founds Nataal magazine with Helen Jennings and Sara Hemmings to raise international awareness of major trends in Africa.

  • 2019


    His performance in Le Père de Nafi is awarded at the Vues d’Afrique Festival in Montreal. At the Locarno International Film Festival, the film receives the First Feature Award as well as the Golden Leopard in the Filmmakers of the Present Competition.

The Institut français and the artist

Fallou, by Alassane Sy (2017) has been screened internationally by the Institut français.

The Institut français, together with the Cinémathèque Afrique, offers a catalogue of over 1,600 African films from 1960 to the present day.

Learn more about the Cinémathèque Afrique



L'institut français, LAB