It’s not often that a film-maker, especially an African one, uses a movie to pay tribute to politicians.
But that’s exactly what French-Ivorian director Philippe Lacote did in “Run”, his contemporary drama about a man who flees after killing his country’s prime minister.
Lacote, however, is keen to stress that he is not referring to the African continent’s current crop of leaders.
“Run” pays tribute through one of its characters, a politician named Assa, to post-independence African politicians who Lacote believes were driven by idealism not greed and were pushed out by a raft of corrupt strongmen.
“They (the ousted politicians) were intellectuals… and they had real ideals for Africa. They entered politics and maybe after 10 years they were destroyed by people who wanted money,” he told AFP in an interview at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I wanted to make a homage to this generation,” said the film-maker who grew up in a working class area of Abidjan and whose mother is Ivorian and father is French.
Lacote, 43, whose film is being shown in the festival’s closely-watched new talent section, predicted that young Africans would in future be unwilling to put up with leaders who “forget their people”.
“It will come. It’s beginning today. I see a lot of young Africans who want to be international, to develop something in Africa without violence. There is a new generation,” he said.
Ivory Coast’s former strongman Laurent Gbagbo is currently on trial in The Hague charged with crimes against humanity following post-election violence in 2010/11 that claimed more than 3,000 lives.
His election rival Alassane Ouattara, now president, eventually ousted him and the opposition has since decried what it calls “victor’s justice”.
“Their (the younger generation’s) motivation is to live like other people in the world,” Lacote said, adding that they were proud to be African and wanted to interact with the rest of the world as equals.
The film-maker said he was relatively optimistic about the future, although he said the country’s politics was still dysfunctional and divisive and would take years to transform itself.
But he said he drew some hope from the events that followed the tragic death of a beautiful young model, Awa Fadiga, who went to hospital after an assault.
Staff left her in a corridor, resulting in her death from neglect and sparking a social-media driven protest against her treatment.
“There was a movement on Facebook, by the media, and the director of the hospital was obliged to leave. It’s the first time (something like this has happened) in Ivory Coast.”
The reaction, he said, was unprecedented and was a clear sign that people were starting to voice demands for reforms to improve their daily lives.
“It’s new. It’s not about politics, it’s not about left or right (or) ethnicity, it’s about the problems of society,” he said.
Politics aside, Lacote has another problem — being a film director in a country with hardly any cinemas.
“It is a little strange,” he said, adding that over the past 20 years all but one or two cinemas in the capital Abidjan had been turned into churches due to a growth in Evangelism.
“Cinemas are very big. They can put a lot of people in them and so young people just watch DVDs,” he said.
But the director, whose film is being screened in the same section as Canadian star Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, said he was confident big screens would make a come-back.
“People want to see films and before they saw a lot of films, so they like cinema,” he said.
“When I shot in Abidjan people on the street came and they said ‘congratulations we want to see movies shot here’. They think that my film speaks about their problems,” he said.