Thursday, February 25, 2021

Night of the Kings Review: Throwback Storytelling At Its Finest

Bakary Koné	...	Roman Steve Tientcheu	Steve Tientcheu	...	Barbe Noire (Blackbeard) Jean Cyrille Digbeu	Jean Cyrille Digbeu	...	Demi-Fou (Half-Mad) Rasmané Ouédraogo	Rasmané Ouédraogo	...	Soni Issaka Sawadogo	Issaka Sawadogo	...	Nivaquine Abdoul Karim Konaté	Abdoul Karim Konaté	...	Lass Macel Anzian	Macel Anzian	...	Lame de Rasoir (Razor Blade) Laetitia Ky	Laetitia Ky	...	The Queen Denis Lavant	Denis Lavant	...	Silence Zunon François Lopez	Zunon François Lopez	...	Police Officer Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Narcisse Aféli	Narcisse Aféli	...	Queen's Soldier Drabo Arouna	Drabo Arouna	...	Lascar Chief Jean Marcel Brou Daboiko	Jean Marcel Brou Daboiko	...	Lascar Chief Sandrine Digbeu	Sandrine Digbeu	...	Policewoman Lago Woroka Gilles	Lago Woroka Gilles	...	Cook (as Lago Woroka)

Release date: February 26, 2021
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Koné Bakary, Steve Tientcheu, Digbeu Jean Cyrille, Rasmané Ouédraogo, Issaka Sawadogo, Abdoul Karim Konaté, Anzian Marcel, Laetitia K
Written and Directed By: Philippe Lacôte

A young man is sent to “La Maca,” a prison in the middle of the Ivorian forest ruled by its inmates. As tradition goes with the rising of the red moon, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Learning what fate awaits him, he begins to narrate the mystical life of the legendary outlaw named “Zama King” and has no choice but to make his story last until dawn.

Christopher Kaké	Christopher Kaké	...	Lascar Chief Gbazi Yves Landry	Gbazi Yves Landry	...	Sexy Umar Aïcha Lola	Umar Aïcha Lola	...	Albino Woman Ange Eric N'Guessan	Ange Eric N'Guessan	...	Guetteur Sozehoué Ninon	Sozehoué Ninon	...	Rocky Marie-Josée Néné	Marie-Josée Néné	...	Hélène Stéphane Sebime	Stéphane Sebime	...	Koby Ismail Traoré	Ismail Traoré	...	Lascar Chief Cissé Vadieneka	Cissé Vadieneka	...	Konan Produced by  Delphine Jaquet	...	producer Ernest Konan	...	producer Yanick Létourneau	...	producerMusic by    Directed by  Philippe Lacôte	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Philippe Lacôte
Night of the Kings is nothing like what I expected.  The film is set almost entirely in La Maca, and I expected a film that mostly took place inside prison walls would not be able to keep my interest.  But the movie does a great job of showcasing the brutal prison conditions right from the start.  And it also shows some of the anarchy that this inmate run prison has.  The film starts with a masterful use of sound to show the chaos, confusion, and brutality of a new fish coming into this strange place.  

But after the jarring initiation into La Maca, the movie takes a decidedly different tone.  When Roman begins to to tell his stories, the film really comes alive.  Roman is hesitant at first, but when he beings to find his voice, the movie becomes much more compelling.  Roman's stories are accompanied by an energy and excitement from the other inmates that is palatable.  They react to his every word, and a core group of inmates help to act out the events of his story in an imaginative, fluid style that makes them come alive.  And the story is accompanied by impromptu, beautiful, acapella songs from other inmates that again, help to sell the story and keep your imagination firing.  The reenactments, songs, and inmate energy add several layers and nuance to the storytelling, and helps to keep the audience engaged on this special night.  The film does have cuts to recreations of scenes in the story, which are enjoyable to really frame the events, but the real draw are the scenes within the prison.  These are similar to Scare Me, where a story is sold purely on the magnetism and abilities of the storytellers.  It is a classic throw back that I wouldn't expect in a modern movie, and a welcome change of pace that lets you sit back and enjoy the story.

The storytelling is also accompanied by internal drama within the prison that adds a layer of tension to Roman's night.  Much happens around him but the circumstances add pressure to this young story weaver, and force him to focus on the story telling despite everything happening around him.  And although the storytelling in the prison feels so special, the recreations themselves are also very well done.  They provide a pop of color and light that you don't get in the prison scenes.  It also adds vivid imagery and imagination to the overall story.  However, the recreations do suffer from a use of CG that is noticeable but not too distracting.  It just feels like it wouldn't have been needed, and the scene that it is used for could have been recreated with the other storytelling techniques.  But overall the use of CG is a minor complaint to this otherwise wonderful film.  Additionally, the ending of Night of the Kings does not feel like a complete conclusion to this overall experience.  But as with most storytelling, the journey to the end is more important than the actual ending.  

Night of the Kings highlights the power and magic of storytelling, with a palatable energy and excitement accompanying this compelling, imaginative story.

Watch it.

Ivory Coast Cote de Ivory Storytelling Stories Prison Prisoners Magic Arabian Nights
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Night of the Kings is available in theaters on February 26, 2021 and on Premium On Demand on March 5, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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