With a film from the Ivory Coast selected for the first time to screen at Cannes, hopes are high that the West African country’s long-dormant film industry might finally be on the rebound.
Helmer Philippe Lacote, who was born and raised in Abidjan, the country’s largest city, to a French father and Ivorian mother, will make his first trip to Cannes with “Run,” a gritty coming-of-age drama that will preem in Un Certain Regard.
It is a milestone for a country whose cinematic forebears, like Desire Ecare and Henri Duparc, were among the pioneers of African film.
“I think this selection of Cannes will be important and I think it will be a start” toward rebuilding the industry, Lacote said.
For many years the Ivory Coast was Francophone West Africa’s cultural and economic powerhouse, but years of conflict precipitated an economic freefall that has crippled the local film industry.
“Run” is Lacote’s second attempt to help jumpstart the fledgling biz. In 2012 he produced “Burn It Up Djassa,” which preemed in Toronto and went on to screen at a number of fests.
The experience of “Djassa,” which was shot in 11 days on a budget of $15,000, “was the first step of ‘Run,’” per Lacote, who splits his time between Abidjan and Paris. Not only did the film, which was directed by first-time helmer Lonesome Solo, allow the 42-year-old Lacote to cut his teeth on feature filmmaking, but it also opened doors for dozens of actors in Abidjan, including Abdoul Karim Konate, who returns as the lead in “Run.”
It could be the Ivory Coast’s most ambitious film to date. Produced on a budget of $2.1 million, pic chronicles the devastating toll of the country’s long-running civil war through the lens of a 21-year-old named Run. Over the course of the film, Run is forced to flee the demons of his own troubled past. “Each time he’s running away from one life to another,” Lacote said.
Pic is produced by Paris-based Banshee Film and Lacote’s Wassakara Prods. in Abidjan and co-produced by Arte. The screenplay won first prize in the Jerusalem Film Lab, and the producers received coin from France’s Centre National de la Cinématographie. Bac Films is the world sales agent.
Perhaps most encouraging is the help Lacote and company received at home. “Run” received $150,000 from a new film fund disbursed by the Ivorian government, the first time that the country has put such financial support into a film. It’s something that Lacote feels is a promising sign for the country moving forward.
Wassakara is helping seven young directors to produce short films.
“After these 10 years of war,” Lacote said, “I am sure that we will get this level again.”