Pick of the Geek – The Night of Truth

Night of Truth (French: La nuit de la vérité) is a 2004 French/Burkinabe film, the first by director Fanta Régina Nacro. Set in a fictional West-African country, this film tells the story of the night of reconciliation between two ethnic groups, the Nayak and the Bonandés. After ten years of war and much bloodshed, Théo, leader of the Bonandés, invites the Nayak president to come and make peace. However, things do not go as smoothly as planned. The film is in French and Dioula.

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To say that there’s nothing like Fanta Régina Nacro’s feature debut is not a boast, but a simple statement of fact. The first woman from sub-Saharan Africa to make a feature film, Nacro knows there’s no cinematic context for what she’s doing, so she makes one up, setting her film in a nameless African country recovering from a gruesome civil war between two fictional ethnic groups. The details of the violence recall the Rwandan genocide, though in interviews Nacro cautioned against reading the film as a statement on Africa, saying the collapse of Yugoslavia was a bigger influence. That said, one horrifying act of torture late on in the film was drawn not only from the history of Nacro’s home country of Burkina Faso, but from Nacro’s own family – her uncle was tortured in exactly this way. Nacro’s moral authority allows her to push the gore further than most of the Western-made films about Africa that proliferated in the mid-00s would dare, but the violence doesn’t dominate the film. The story centres around a reconciliation, one that involves both a formal ceremony and her wide cast of characters finding their own ways to come to terms with the fact that their enemies are now their neighbours. The Night of Truth has a small, local setting but a vast, fascinating set of characters, and the overall effect recalls Shakespeare’s problem plays or the Greek Oresteia cycle more than it does any other film. Infuriatingly, Nacro has been unable to direct a feature since.

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