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Philippe Lacôte • Director

"There are a lot of young talents in Africa today"


- CANNES 2017: Cineuropa met up with French-Ivorian filmmaker Philippe Lacôte after the workshop on French-speaking countries organised by the CNC

Philippe Lacôte  • Director

After the workshop on French-speaking countries organised by the CNC, Cineuropa chatted to French-Ivorian director Philippe Lacôte, whose feature debut, Run [+see also:
film review
film profile
, was presented in Un Certain Regard in 2014 and who is currently preparing his new movie, Zama King.

Cineuropa: What were the main things to come out of the discussion you had here in Cannes on Thursday?
Philippe Lacôte:
 We were invited by the CNC, which gave us a theme, the title "Africa, the laboratory of French-language creation", and we were joined by several representatives of today’s production and directing scene on the African continent. What came out of it is that the CNC wants to create a fund specifically dedicated to French-language films, with Belgium and Quebec. On the other hand, what emerged among the participants is that we shared the same views. Abderrahmane Sissako was also in the room and said something, and we were all unanimous in saying that we couldn’t see an area for the production and funding of films today if there was no area for training. We are convinced that there are a lot of young talents in Africa today, but they are far removed from the international financing systems and far removed from international norms; they need their screenplays to be improved with script doctors in places of learning, and they need film shoots to also serve as training grounds, with a theoretical component and a more practical one. The conversation hinged mainly on those points.

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Regarding this new CNC fund for French-speaking countries, what kind of structure do you think it should adopt?
The fund wouldn’t only be open to films; it would also be open to audiovisual and web creations. It’s important to include all modern forms of writing that exist in Africa today, because there are so many young people who work online or who film with their phones. This idea of a multidisciplinary fund is really fantastic news.

When you talk about training, are you referring to all of the various stages? From the screenplay to post-production?
Yes, all of the stages, but the two that the participants really focused their contributions on were the screenplay and production. We need producers, and we need more well-rounded screenplays that come out of labs, which are challenged, picked apart and put in front of script doctors, so that they can then go and face the international committees.

It’s also important to consider the issue of learning by doing.
Exactly – in other words, you don’t consider a training process spanning one year; you consider a theoretical side lasting one month, as is the case for my next film, Zama King, and after that, you head off to the set. Thus the film also serves as a springboard to train young people in all of the various positions.

Is that what happened with your previous film, Run?
That is indeed what happened with Run, and it’s what we want to continue rolling out. Run was my feature debut, we were filming in the midst of a difficult political situation, and I was scared of endangering the shoot too much. So we filmed it with around 20 young people, but we had done it beforehand with the actors. As a result, we want to open production departments, departments that have not previously been open to training.

Can you tell us anything about your new project?
Zama King will be my second feature, and it was developed at the TorinoFilmLab. It’s a film that unfolds in a prison. A young man arrives in this prison and is forced to tell a story all night long. He’s a kind of modern-day Scheherazade.

Have you already secured funding for the movie?
It’s just been announced that we’ll get €300,000 in funding from the Ivory Coast, which is supporting us via the FONSIC. That’s the first tranche of funding, and it’s important because – and it was a similar case for Run – we always wanted the country to get on board first of all and give a positive signal to potential partners.

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(Translated from French)

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