Night Of The Kings (La Nuit des Rois ) (15)

Night Of The Kings (La Nuit des Rois ) (15)

Director: Philippe Lacôte

Runtime: 93 minutes

Cast: Steve Tientcheu, Bakary Koné, Issaka Sawadogo, Jean Cyrille Digbeu, Rasmane Ouedraogo, Abdoul Karim Konaté, Macel Anzian, Laetitia Ky, Denis Lavant

Synopsis: A young man is sent to “La Maca,” a prison in the middle of the Ivorian forest ruled by its inmates. As tradition goes with the rising of the red moon, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Learning what fate awaits him, he begins to narrate the mystical life of the legendary outlaw named “Zama King” and has no choice but to make his story last until dawn


Writer and Director Philippe Lacôte grew up in Ivory Coast’s largest city Abidjan near a movie theatre – the “Magic”. His work as a director has taken on several forms, before focusing in 2002 on the recent history of his country with Chronicles of War in the Ivory Coast, (2008), a film on the edge between a documentary and a diary. It was followed by the feature film Run, the story of a wandering madman, starring Abdoul Karim Konaté (who also stars in Night of the Kings) and Isaach De Bankole. Run was selected for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard 2014 and was also Ivory Coast’s official Oscar submission that year.

Spectacular, thrilling and absolutely unique, Night of the Kings is both an exhilarating tale of survival in one of the world’s most unforgiving environments and a beautiful ode to the power of storytelling. The film received its World Premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in September 2020 as part of the Horizons section and went on to feature at the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival that same year. It was Ivory Coast’s official submission for the 2021 Academy Awards.

When a young man (newcomer Koné Bakary) is sent to an infamous prison, located in the middle of the Ivorian forest and ruled by its inmates, he is chosen by the boss ‘Blackbeard’ (Steve Tientcheu, BAFTA and Academy-Award nominated Les Miserables (2019), director Ladj Ly) to take part as ‘Roman’ in a storytelling ritual just as a violent battle for control bubbles to the surface. After discovering the grim fate that awaits him at the end of the night, the Roman begins to narrate the mystical life of a legendary outlaw, Zama King, to make his story last until dawn and give himself any chance of survival.

Zama King’s story is retold over the course of the tumultuous night in the notoriously overcrowded and violent Maca jail by the young thief, cast in the role of a reluctant, modern-day Scheherazade. In the backdrop, the prison is on the verge of revolt, with the inmates in the mood for blood-letting amid a power struggle between their long-time chief Blackbeard and rival pretenders to his throne.

Ultimately, the Roman crafts a tale that lyrically enthralls his fellow prisoners in this mesmerising film which is part thriller, part magical realist theatre.

There is an amazing ensemble cast – all with their own distinct characters which are used to the fullest in this vibrant and atmospheric drama.

The wild prison of Abidjan becomes a microcosm to explore both the turbulent present and social conditions of the country through ceremony, music and magical realism.

Philippe Lacôte has said: “I try to make fiction with real and true stories.”

The restless and riveting fable, Night of the Kings, showcases writer-director Philippe Lacôte in full command of his craft, with stunning cinematography from Tobie Marier-Robitaille and an atmospheric original score from Olivier Alary.

 In cinemas and streaming digitally

Images courtesy of :AltitudeFilms