Run de Philippe Lacôte, Cannes 2014
by Sherif Awad
One of the film screened in European Film Market of the Berlinale 2015 is Run, the feature debut by writer-director Philippe Lacôte, an Ivorian director has been doing short narratives and documentaries shown in film festivals since 1994. Before finalizing Run, Lacôte made a short narrative called To Repel Ghosts (2013) was a fictionalized account of a journey of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to Ivory Coast.
Run is the name of the title character in Lacôte’s new film. He is a young man, played by newcomer Abdoul Karim Konaté, who is running away after assassinating the Prime Minister of his African country. The incident drives Run to be literally on the run and to play the fool wandering around the town for months. During his struggle, his life flashes back on his own eyes starting from his childhood, his adventures with his country’s militias until his current situation…
“Run was born as I started doing fieldwork in Ivory Coast over ten years ago”, said Lacôte. “ I remember in the year 2002, I set off to Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan where I grew up watching films in the cinema of the neighborhood. Equipped with a digital camera in order to assess how the young generation was faring, I thought that filming my childhood friends would help me understand my rather complex tie to my country. Three days later, the rebellion broke out, which drove me to film my neighborhood for the first three weeks of the curfew, with no specific goal, just like some sort of photographic logbook. But it so happens that Yopougon is the largest municipality in West Africa, with 1.5 million residents. It is also the stronghold of the Young Patriots, one of the fiercest supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo. I felt I was recording the reactions of ordinary citizens, filming busloads of activists who were heading for meetings and morning papers and their front pages”.
Lacôte then went to the house of a Young Patriot to interview him. When he asked him how he had joined the movement. He answered: “Well, I have lived three lives”. It took Lacôte six years to make his 2008 released documentary Chroniques de guerre en Côte d'Ivoire that became some sort of autobiographical portrayal about him surviving the civil war in Ivory Coast. “However, I have always kept in mind the words of the Young Patriot which made me want to tell the story of a man living three lives”, continued Lacôte. “So, I made the Young Patriot’s statement mine and set it in as an imaginary, fictional tale.It did not take me long to decide that the character was going to shift from one life to another, each time fleeing the previous one. Nowadays, in Ivory Coast, 75% of the population is under 30. Each of these youths has followed a tortuous path, so much so that for me, running did not mean a cowardly flight but a vital impulse - the character cannot get ahead with his life and must therefore find a way out. I have met a lot of people over there, who are faced with no choice - they have to organize their lives depending on the circumstances surrounding them, finding themselves in a place they have not chosen and having to re-invent themselves. I chose to stick with the actual lives of these youths. Bearing this in mind, I decided to narrate those three lives. The name of the character was an obvious choice for me and the plot of the story fell into place”.
Run’s only friend and mentor is played in the film is played internationally renowned Ivorian-born star Isaach De Bankolé who was once a mathematics graduate discovered by a director as he was about to become an airline pilot. Bankolé turned to acting and studied drama in France until he landed small roles that got him a César Award (The French Oscars) for Best Newcomer for Thomas Gilou’s Black Mic Mac (1987). De Bankolé was seen in several French comedies and also worked on stage in Patrice Chéreau’s productions. He became a favorite of Jim Jarmusch and appeared in Night on Earth (1990), Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (1999) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2002) then Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2005) and Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006). He has never overlooked art house productions as he starred in Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) and Claire Denis’ White Material (2008). I was once walking down Tribeca and spotted him reading scripts in Starbucks Coffee. Maybe they were of his next appearance in US cult TV shows The Sopranos and 24.