'Run': Cannes Review

'Run,' Philippe Lacote (Un Certain Regard)
Courtesy of Festival De Cannes

A look at the violent history of Ivory Coast from native son Philippe Lacote. The plot follows a runaway who has just killed the country’s prime minister. Run is Lacote's feature film debut after numerous shorts and documentary projects. (Sales: BAC Films)

The current hotness of African cinema just got a little hotter with the maturation of this promising new talent. 

Ivorean documentary and shorts maker Philippe Lacote makes his feature-film debut with this picaresque adventure through the Ivory Coast's recent history seen through the eyes of an assassin.

Compact in terms of duration but stretched wide in its scope, Run makes one young man’s picaresque adventures into a magical realist microcosm of the Ivory Coast’s recent history. It’s the first fiction feature for its director, Ivorean-native Philippe Lacote, who cut his teeth on the documentaries Chronicles of War in the Ivory Coast (200) and Cairo Hours (2003), as well as several well-received shorts. He also produced Lonesome Solo’s recent Burn It Up Djassa, which also starred Run’s charismatic lead Abdoul Karim Konate, playing a political assassin with a checkered career, sheltered by Isaach De Bankole’s dissident. Run’s confident, flavorful direction and oneiric imagery will give it a head start at further festivals, while it already has distribution secured in France with Bac Films.

PHOTOS: Cannes Red Carpet

After the eerie opening sequence finds a rag-robed Run (Konate) shooting the nation’s prime minister in an Abidjan cathedral, the hero shows just how he got his name by hoofing it across town, his somewhat unnecessary voiceover narrating as he goes. It transpires that Run has fallen in with some dissidents, and must take shelter with Assa (De Bankole) while the military searches everywhere for the assassin. Eventually, a curfew is called to quell unrest, echoing recent events in the still civil-war-torn nation.

While cooling his heels at Assa’s, flashbacks unfurl his colorful backstory. Originally from the sticks, Run (played as a child by Abdoul Bah) became an apprentice to the local rainmaker, Tourou (Rasmane Ouedraogo), a paternal mystic given to koan-like pronouncements about the moon and capable of soothsaying. The way his violent death provokes a rainstorm illustrates the very-African belief in the veracity of magic, although the deployment of supernatural elements throughout is sparing and matter-of-factly handled.

After Tourou’s death, Run hooks up with Gladys (Reine Sali Coulibaly), a sensuous, super-plus-sized performer who travels the country as Gladys La Mangeuse (Greedy Gladys, in the English subtitles). Her simple but enthusiastically received show basically consists of her sitting on a stage and stuffing her face with food offered by the locals. In the third act (per press notes, the film was inspired by a man who said he’d lived three lives), Run falls in with a militia gang loyal to the Admiral (Alexandre Desane), a xenophobic demagogue with political ambitions whose fate is deeply entwined with Run’s.   

PHOTOS: The Party Scene at Cannes 2014

Although it’s clear the film is made with a local’s intimate knowledge of the geography and social textures of the Ivory Coast, there’s a lot of developed world-art house aesthetic mixed in there too. It’s palpable in the off-center camera set-ups (Israeli DoP Daniel Miller’s lighting capably evokes the equally bejeweled but subtly different color palettes of the city and countryside), the stripped-down, mesmeric score by Sebastian Escofet and the looping, cursive editing credited to Barbara Bossuet. Lacote's experience with documentary-making shines through in his rapport with the actors, many of them non- or only semi-professional, but who all have a relaxed ease in front of the camera. The result is a film that feels both deeply personal and urgent, but not strident or mannered. The current hotness of African cinema just got a little hotter.

Production company: Banshee Films

Cast: Abdoul Karim Konate, Isaach De Bankole, Reine Sali Coulibaly, Abdoul Bah, Alexandre Desane, Rasmane Ouedraogo, Adelaide Ouattara

Director, screenwriter: Philippe Lacote

Producer: Claire Gadea

Director of photography: Daniel Miller

Production designer: Delphine Jaquet

Costume designer: Hanna Sjodin

Editor: Barbara Bossuet

Music: Sebastian Escoffet

Sales: Bac Films

No rating, 100 minutes