Cannes: Scheherazade-Style Drama Based on Story of Child Soldier's Rise to Notorious Gang Leader
Photo Credit: A scene from Philippe Lacôte's RUN, playing at the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 23 - May 7 2015.
Festivals , Film

Cannes: Scheherazade-Style Drama Based on Story of Child Soldier's Rise to Notorious Gang Leader

A scene from Philippe Lacôte's RUN, playing at the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 23 - May 7 2015.
A scene from Philippe Lacôte’s feature debut “RUN”

First, some very brief context…

For the 2016 Oscars, Ivory Coast selected Philippe Lacôte’s debut feature “Run” to represent the country in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards – a very rare occurrence for the West African nation, although it didn’t make the final list of 5 nominees. In 1976, Ivory Coast, became the first Sub-Saharan African country to submit a film – “Black and White in Color” by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud. Although the film was a majority French production, it was allowed to represent Ivory Coast, and it went on to win the 1977 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Between “Black and White” and “Run” (a 40-year gap) there were no submissions from Ivory Coast for Oscar consideration, despite there being around 30 feature films made in the country by Ivorian filmmakers over that time period (barely 1 film a year), with Désiré Ecaré’s 1985 drama “Visages des Femmes” (“Faces of Women”) – a film well ahead of its time – maybe the most obvious of potential contenders.

So Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) native Philippe Lacôte’s feature film debut, “Run,” was something of an accomplishment – that it was produced and that it traveled as widely as it did, making its world premiere at the 67th edition of the most prestigious film festival in the world, the Cannes Film Festival, in the Un Certain Regard sidebar – a program created to recognize young, promising talent and to encourage innovative and daring storytelling on film. It traveled the international film festival circuit, drawing critical acclaim along the way, although it was never officially released in the USA unfortunately; it did screen at a handful of American film festivals, however (read our review of it here).

Philippe Lacôte
Philippe Lacôte

“Run” stars Isaach de Bankole (likely the most familiar to S&A readers; he recently starred in Andrew Dosunmu’s “Mother Of George”), Abdoul Karim Konate (he starred in Bamba Souleymane’s “Burn It Up Djassa”) and Rasmane Ouedraogo (the veteran featured in films like Ousmane Sembene’s “Moolaadé”).

The filmmaker is now set to go into production on his next feature film, which will be based on the real-life story of Ivorian gang leader, Zama, who was slashed to death by fed-up locals, on the streets of Abijan, the country’s economic hub.

“Zama is a product of the war, a former child soldier who went on to become the leader of an infamous street gang. Through his trajectory, I’ll explore the Ivory Coast’s post-war era,” director Lacôte said. “Zama was the son of a so-called magician. The gang members believed that if they tried to escape, the father’s ghost would track them down… The project covers the mystic, the political and the cinematic… these three elements are perfect for the way I like to make films.”

Indeed. His feature film debut, the aforementioned “Run,” fits quite nicely under the magical realism umbrella.

The story will unfold as Zama, in an Abidjan prison, details the story of his life to other inmates, and what led to his imprisonment.

The film will be titled “Zama King” and Isaach de Bankolé (who starred in “Run”) is once again attached to star, as well as Abdoul Bah (also from “Run”).

The filmmaker will produce “Zama King” through his Abidjan-based Wassakara Productions and Paris-based Banshee Films. He is currently shopping the project at Cannes, where he also announced a €300,000 (about $337,000) investment in the production from the Ivory Coast’s ministry of culture, with the hope that this will lead to even more financial backers stepping up to invest in the project.

It’s certainly a project to watch for.

And so the journey continues…

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