Night of the Kings (2021)

Night of the Kings (2021)

A theatrical and truly original fantasy drama from Ivory Coast



Canada, Cote D'Ivoire
Drama, Fantasy
Denis Lavant, Digbeu Jean Cyrille, Issaka Sawadogo
93 min


We should all really watch more African cinema, and more studios should really fund more African cinema.

What it's about

At a remote prison governed by its prisoners, a new inmate is tasked with telling stories as part of a ritual.

The take

With a script that seems to have been written for a medieval fantasy, but set in a present-day Ivorian jail, Night of the Kings immediately situates itself between the realms of reality and imagination. Whether or not one thinks that certain details about the prison's strange rituals have been lost in translation, the mysticism surrounding the events of the movie remains impossible to shake. The idea of improvising one's way out of trouble should make sense in any cultural context after all, and this is what keeps the film on edge—and what helps Night of the Kings work as such a singular vision from an often underrepresented region of world cinema.

What stands out

There's an element of theater that rules over Night of the Kings—from the turns of phrase it uses, to the grand nature of its narrative, to its heightened fantasy sequences (rendered in less than impressive CGI, unfortunately). But the most unique aspect of the storytelling here is in how these crowds of people in the prison begin to move as one as the storyteller starts spinning his tales. These groups of inmates extend from the crowd like appendages, animating the entire world and further blurring the line between what's "real" and what's fantastical. It's a privilege to be able to see something so different.


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