Sign up for our weekly newsletter
NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Film Review: Night of the Kings

28 July 21 words: Roshan Chandy

Could this visceral prison drama be the start of an African cinema revolution?

Director: Philippe Lacôte
Starring: Bakary Koné, Isaka Sawadogo, Steve Tientcheu
Running time: 93 minutes

Night of the Kings is an incendiary, multicultural, tinderbox tale of Ivorian prison life rooted in African mythos and legend, with some spectacular images and a moral message that rings loud and clear from its prison cell.

It’s about a young man recently arriving in a rabid Ivory Coast prison, already losing his mind thanks to the isolation and confinement and finding solace amongst the rapists, paedophiles and domestic abusers through the power of a story.

The movie captures the anarchy of prison life like no other. There are punch-ups and machete slits and men making monkey noises. It's also got spectacular visuals for a low-budget African film during a sequence of CGI that features an elephant, a water hog and a snake. Expect to see director Phillipe Lacote attached to a major Hollywood project in the future.

This is to African cinema what City of God was for South American cinema – its breaking and entering into the mainstream

For all the film’s anger and aggression, it contains a very human quality which is absolutely down to the strength of the lead performance of Bakary Kone – an Ivory Coast national who we’ll surely be seeing more of too. His eyes are as meaningful and pop-out as Daniel Kaluuya’s and Sidney Poitier's. You see his loneliness, his pain, his humanity. You'll want to help him out of this situation.

I saw shades of Fernando Meirelles' City of God, which even gets referenced. It shares its social commentary applied to prison life and its passion for youth. This is to African cinema what City of God was for South American cinema – its breaking and entering into the mainstream. It's bloody brilliant. 

Did you know? The film is based on a real-life Ivorian prison, La Maca. Lacôte reconstructed the facility from memory, having visited it regularly as a child when his mother was held there following her involvement in the pro-democracy movement of the 1980s.

Night of the Kings is in cinemas now

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now