After a decade of savage civil war, an unnamed African country decides to give peace a chance in The Night Of Truth. But while the leaders of the governing Nayaks and the rebel Bonandes focus on the future, others are determined to avenge the past. Acted mainly by non-professionals, Fanta Régina Nacro's debut has an authenticity that makes its horrific moments all the more shocking. It's a little rough around the edges, but its contemplation of the cost of war still resonates.
"From this evening on, we're all the same," declares Bonande colonel Theo (Commandent Moussa Cisse), hailing the official peace dinner that the story revolves around. Yet this fraught film is continually mindful of how hard it is to wipe such a bloody slate clean. Throughout we're reminded of the terrible legacy of conflict, from a group of kids' animated discussion of their war injuries to the disquieting images of body parts cascading down a waterfall. Then there's presidential wife Edna's (Naky Sy Savane) bid for vengeance, which brings the drama to a head with a gruesome twist.
"OFFERS HOPE WITHOUT SEEMING GLIB"
The overall impact is arguably weakened by uneven performances and the inclusion of a clichéd idiot savant figure, Tomota (Rasmane Quedraougo). Yet in many ways this is as powerful as a more technically adept tale of African genocide, Hotel Rwanda. It manages to offer hope without seeming glib or trite, while its insights resound with enough universal truth for this to stand as a potent allegory for any number of real-life conflicts, past and present.
In French, Moore and Djoula with English subtitles