African Slate Introduction
This year the African slate is brimming with life, diversity and allegory, as we explore social injustice, poverty, revenge and the power of stories across the African continent. The slate boasts of everything from a kafkaesque drama, to action-packed genre fare, to a cold stripped-bare thriller, to an almost magical prison drama that almost feels like a tale from a kingdom of old.
Tunisia, Youssef Chebbi
Ashkal is an eerie police "procedural", set in the midst of the unfinished buildings started before the 2010 revolution, and at a moment when those who committed crimes in aid of the old regime may be held accountable for it. However, at this simultaneous moment of a new society, and the remnants of old fighting back, seemingly unconnected people are being found - burned to death. Everything points to suicide, but the coincidences are too many. Its social context adds a lot of weight and makes it a particularly solemn thriller.
La nuit des rois / Night of the Kings (2020)
Ivory Coast, Philippe Lacôte
Night of Kings is a visceral ode to the storytelling traditions of the Ivory Coast and much of Africa, created with love and bringing magic into the bleak and violent of an inmate-run prison. It is a tale of two doomed men. The ruler of the prison, known as Blackbeard, ailing to the extent he can no longer lead and is expected, by inmates' rules to commit suicide, and the latest inmate which he assigns the title/name of "Roman", also tied to a tradition where, on a red moon, a storyteller will tell a tale, and then, as the night ends, blood will be spilt. With the prison almost feeling live a kingdom of old and narratives mixes the modern world and fables, this is a truly special and magical film.
Senegal, Jean Luc Herbulot
Saloum is a Senegalese horror/thriller that oozes with style. Hiding out in a small town near the Saloum River, a group of criminals desperately try to keep their identity hidden from the local police officer, but their concern soon turns to simply staying alive. The horror stretch is the film is magnificent with an excellently crafted swarm-like monster and intense scenes as they try to pass it undetected. In fact, the second half is delightfully bonkers for the most part and nicely more focused on the WTF nature of everything going on.
Eyimofe / This Is My Desire (2020)
Nigeria, Arie Esiri, Chuko Esiri
This is My Desire is a slow-brooding exploration of the want of a better life outside of Nigeria. It depicts poverty in Lagos in striking detail as we explore two dreams/desires, two stories - taking place in the same neighbourhood - but not intersecting beyond thematic of money, passports and a long grind as straws are clutched and dreams are put under tighter and tighter odds. Is the desire of escape even worth it at the consequences they may entail?