Philippe Lacôte grew up in Abidjan, next to a movie theater named The Magic. After linguistic studies and a stint in radio, he started making film at age twenty-two. Among his films are The Messenger, The Libinski Affair, Cairo Hours and the essay/documentary/diary Chronicles of a War – a personal portrait of the neighborhood where he grew up during the first weeks of the civil war in 2002. Lacôte produced the much talked about feature Burn it up Djassa by fellow Ivorian filmmaker Lonesome Solo, which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, and he directed the Ivorian contribution To Repel Ghosts to the short film compilation African Metropolis released in 2013. Philippe Lacôte’s acclaimed feature debut, Run, starring Abdoul Karim Konaté, Isaach de Bankolé and Reine Sali Coulibaly, premiered in Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section and is opening in Côte d’Ivoire and France today, December 17.
What is your first film memory?
My first film memories are from our neighborhood cinema in Abidjan. When my mother had to run errands she would drop me there and pick me up 20 or 30 minutes later, with the result that I never got to watch an entire film, just snippets. One sequence that comes to mind was of two cowboys drinking whisky and talking around a fire. I don’t remember the name of the film, but I’ll never forget the shadows and the unreal atmosphere.
Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
It wasn’t really a choice, but rather something that I had to do. There was this time when I was watching a Bruce Lee film at The Magic (the neighborhood cinema) with my friends. At one point in the movie, when a crook was chasing Bruce Lee, this guy got up and stabbed the screen to save the hero. In hindsight, I think that’s the day when I knew I was going to become a filmmaker. I discovered, in this art form, a way to be an artist without being seen, which suits my personality
Which film do you wish you had made?
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, which is based on the filmmaker’s own dreams. I just rewatched a part of the film, about a boy who disobeys his mother and sneaks out to watch a procession of foxes on their way to a wedding. I love when the fantastical infiltrates the real and I love Japanese cinema.
Name one of the films on your top-5 list and the reason why it is there.
It’s either Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter – Robert Mitchum’s portrayal of a fanatic pastor is amazing – or Indian filmmaker Ritwik Gattak’s A River Called Titas. Both films are beautifully shot in black and white and both are extremely evocative and emotionally charged.
Ask yourself any question you think I should have asked and answer it.
“Why do journalists always have one question that is impossible to answer?” Because they think that filmmakers have an answer for everything.