Night of the Kings
A forest in Ivory Coast is home to a prison run by its inmates and is home to the film’s protagonist, in this suspenseful magical realist drama.
Blackbeard (Les Misérables’ Steve Tientcheu) is a boss, or Dangoro, in MACA, a remote prison run by inmates. Rules dictate that if a Dangoro falls ill he must take his own life. And Blackbeard’s health has been deteriorating for some time. But if he can find a Roman – a storyteller – by the next red moon, he may be able to invoke a Night of the Roman and stave off the chaos that a power grab would cause. He finds his ideal candidate in Koné Bakary, who soon comes to realise that when his story ends, like Sheherezade’s, so will his life.
Filmmaker Philippe Lacôte first drew attention to his country’s cinema potential with his 2014 debut Run. Night of the Kings is a marked advance in his style, creating a phantasmagoria that edges towards nightmare as chaos descends. Atmosphere trumps the narrative minutiae as we are immersed in the power structures of MACA and the strife that soon erupts into rebellion. It’s an impressive journey into darkness.