Total Film





Writer/director Philippe Lacôte’s unconventi­onal but utterly compelling drama transports us to La MACA, the Ivory Coast’s most notorious prison. Lacôte paints a unique picture: one that fuses his childhood experience­s of visiting his mum in the prison - with its open, inmate-run halls and tradition of communal storytelli­ng - with a tightly wound, power-structure-centred plot and a dollop of make-believe.

On his first night within its imposing walls, pickpocket Roman (Bakary Koné) is forced by the prison’s dying ‘Dangôro’ (inmate king) Barbe Noire (Steve Tientcheu), to regale his fellow prisoners with a story that’ll captivate them till dawn, lest he be killed. He quickly realises he must up the narrative stakes to keep his audience hooked – and a power-hungry gang at bay – so starts to spin his tale into a heightened fantasy of kings, queens and epic tragedies.

The way Lacôte effortless­ly weaves Roman’s visually splendifer­ous saga

around the gritty central setting is as arresting as the richly nuanced characters. Through its inhabitant­s, the prison becomes a writhing organism. Roman’s story is interjecte­d with singing, dancing and additional embellishm­ent by his listeners. There are also food breaks and the occasional murder, creating a vibrant atmosphere of tangible believabil­ity, as its tales within a tale twist and fold with frequency. Shame that the final act is rushed; otherwise, Night Of The Kings is a regal experience. Erlingur Einarsson

 ??  ?? “ in the end, J.R.’s death was really just a dream that Pamela had.”
“ in the end, J.R.’s death was really just a dream that Pamela had.”

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