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Philippe Lacôte Run is Magical Realism in a Time of Crisis

One of the more memorable films here at the Cannes film fest will have to be French/Ivory Coast director Philippe Lacôte’s Run, about a man living on the Ivory Coast who finds himself on the run from many situations and complicated relationships. He runs when things get problematic and his name is also Run. That shouldn’t be too surprising, given the poetic nature of the writing here, which shifts freely from real-time dialogue to live spoken monologue, to voice overs. Run tells his story, what shaped him in his early life to become what he ends up being — an assassin.

Run’s experiences move from the spiritual (getting advice about dealing with difficult problems in life by confronting the “elephant”) to the practical — learning how to please and work for an obese professional food eater, being part of a corrupt political system, working for people whose motives are suspect and watching them rise to power. Run wants to do the right thing, always, but he finds himself trapped between worlds with no way out — kill or be killed.

Lacôte’s camera and flare for visuals is exceptional and stands out amid the films I’ve seen at Cannes so far this year. He is a real talent, reminiscent of a young Martin Scorsese, showing off with visual flare but capturing unique shot set-ups throughout. Many of the scenes in this film could be still photographs hanging in museums.

Throughout the film we see phases of what the Ivory Coast once was, what it could be but also what it’s become. The violence is almost insurmountable. And yet, there is still so much beauty to be found in the music and the natural environment that surrounds them.

Lacôte is a liberated storyteller, with no allegiance to any status quo. Perhaps that is part of what makes Run such a unique experience, and perhaps why it might perplex many critics. They won’t know quite what to do with something that is forging new paths with storytelling.

This film, made for $2 million, is the Ivory Coast’s film industry’s most ambitious film to date, and has high hopes of jump-starting their film community should the film become a success. Hopefully film critics will recognize this and rally behind it.

Either way, whether he’s making films in the Ivory Coast or anywhere else in the world, Lacôte is a super nova in cinema now. Hopefully he’ll have many different options in choosing where to go from here.

Here’s hoping the Ivory Coast will submit the film for Best Foreign Language consideration at the Oscars. That would go a long way towards re-establishing the country’s own industry, a vital force both in their economy and in their artistic vitality.