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So, wow.  This film from the Ivory Coast (co-produced there, Senegal, France, and Canada) is astonishing.  It's the 5th feature by director Philippe Lacote, but the first to cross my radar.  And it won the "Amplify Voices Award" at TIFF this year, whatever that means.

But, please, more people from A&F need to watch this, so we can talk about it.  Easily one of my favorites from 2020, only an ending that feels anemic compared to everything else that came before keeps me from giving this 5 out of 5 stars.  But it's transporting in a way that the best cinema from far-flung parts of the world can be, immersing you in a new place and delighting you with new types of creativity (Embrace of the Serpent comes to mind).

Set in a remote forest prison, a dying jail overlord calls on a new prisoner to be a storyteller for a night, the better to prolong his tenuous rule.  The storytelling is accompanied by song and beautifully choreographed dance, jumping eras from contemporary civil war, territorial slum wars, and pre-colonial battles.  And Denis Levant plays the only white prisoner, a madman inseparable from his chicken companion.

Themes that I'll try to untangle in my review: the overlay of eras; the interplay of myth, magic, religion, and present-day reality; the importance of storytelling and subterfuge for survival. 

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa


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