Lacôte has once again found his feet with his enthralling, emotional film Run.

“By the light and the heavens, elephant stay still!”

With its captivating storyline and performances so realistic the film appears to be a documentary, Phillippe Lacôte’s Run has reinvigorated the Ivory Coast cinema scene. With its harsh depiction of one man’s life throughout the ever-changing political, spiritual and social landscape of the Ivory Coast during the early-2000s civil war, Run has this year debuted as the first Ivory Coast film to screen at Cannes.

Run is the first feature film of renowned Ivorian documentary-maker Philippe Lacôte, and has hit the ground running at this year’s MIFF. Inspired by a conversation Lacôte shared with a young patriot while filming his documentary series Chroniques de Guerre en Côte d’Ivoire, Run attempts to highlight the dissent of a nation amongst a raging civil war through the eyes of a 21 year-old named Run. Run’s life has been determined by escapism, creating a convoluted personal map that is indicative of the imminent violence that plagued the Coast in the early 2000s. The film is defined by the extremely humanistic performance by Abdoul Konatè, who worked previously with Lacôte in his short film To Repel Ghosts. Konatè embodies the character of Run as though it is a manifestation of himself; his seamless acting creating a brutal representation of life during that time, inspired by both Konatè and Lacôte’s childhoods growing up in the Ivory Coast’s capital of Abidjan. Thus, the violence in many scenes holds serious personal connections to the actor-director duo, making every minute as convincing as the next.

Run Elephant

The film opens with Run’s personal and physical worlds in turmoil after shooting the Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister in a guerrilla attack. Hiding at a former comrade’s house, Run takes the viewer on a journey through his tormented past; chasing his memories through persistent flashbacks that show his constant entanglement in strange yet defining situations. This is ensued by the protagonist running from his problems, with each separate life manifesting in the microcosms of his mind. From his youth as an inspiring rainmaker with his mentor Tourou, to his experiences with ‘Gladys The Eater’; his stagehand and love interest, to his eventual run-in with the militia (young patriots), the narrative is driven forward through the prevalent theme of fulfilling one’s destiny. Run chases the prophecy imposed on him by Tourou, an important thread that dangles precariously throughout the film until its last moments; tying the film together seamlessly and in a way that took me by surprise.

Set amongst the Ivory Coast’s dramatic landscape, every scene is filled with symbolic imagery such as the twisting roads and heavily forested scenes, highlighting the omnipresence of confusion, intertwined storylines and intrigue within the film.

Run is jarring in the way it presents such a realistic depiction of one man’s life – the beauty and intelligence of the screenplay rests in Lacôte’s ability to not shy away from showing violence, greed and fear. As it was filmed in a way that facsimiled a documentary; there were many long, drawn out scenes. As much as the viewer could appreciate Lacôte’s intention, many scenes could have benefitted from a slight chop during editing to allow for more suspense-filled events and dialogue.

From his small budget local documentaries to major international screenplays, Lacôte has seamlessly transitioned into the high ranks of international cinema. The sheer realism of the film, as well as Konatè’s performance is unmatched to anything I’ve witnessed; making Run a great film to see. For anyone eager to gain insight into twenty-first century conflict in Africa, I would definitely recommend seeing Run.