TIFF 2020 film ‘Night of the King’, a prison drama of visually stunning sequences

Asha Bajaj
3 min readSep 25, 2020

#TIFF; #TIFF2020; #45thTorontoInternationalFilmFestival; #NightOfTheKings;

Toronto, Sep 23 (Canadian-Media): Written and directed by Côte d’Ivoire-based West African filmmaker, Philippe Lacôte’s film ‘Night of the Kings,’ a Contemporary World cinema of 45th Toronto International Film Festival presents a young man’s incarceration in a prison in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s largest prison, La MACA, and finds himself entering a world complex world of danger.

Image: Night of the Kings. Image credit: TIFF

Although the movie has some exotic features, oral traditions grounded in the film by Lacôte enable the movie to portrays the universal power of storytelling and how it can be used as a way to survive.

The plot of the story is when a young man (Koné Bakary, delivering a solid first-time performance) is introduced into La MACA and thrust into a dangerous and a complicated world where the prisoners run the show led by the legacy prisoner Blackbeard (Steven Tientcheu, star of 2020 foreign Oscar nominee “Les Misérables”).

Blackbeard designates the young man “Roman”, who on the night of a red moon is forced by Blackbeard to recount a story of his choosing or invention until sunrise if he wants to stay alive and the prison from falling into chaos

Roman starts to tell a story about Zama King, a notorious gang leader whose life spanned from ancient times to the fall of Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo.

Pitched against the realism of the scenes inside the prison, Roman’s story filled with intrigue and magic, introduces an element of fantasy in the film.

While La MACA was originally built to contain 1,500 prisoners, it’s reportedly packed with thousands more. Cinematographer Tobie Marier-Robitaille turns it into a conservative environment, and the moon’s red shadows red casting an uncanny glow over the inmates, with lighting design done by oil lamps and flames.

The other prisoners not only listen, comment, but some of them also act and dance out certain passages, creating moments of unparalleled visual poetry that are captured by Quebec-born cinematographer Tobie Marier Robitaille.



Asha Bajaj

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women