Joël Akafou. The clandestine adventures of the Haute Bourgeoisie Française

Born in Bouaké, the multiethnic and once rebel city of Ivory Coast, Joël Akafou (1986) comes from a long line of storytellers. He grew up on African tales, studied philosophy and theater (INSAAC, Abidjan) before turning to cinema. In 2015 he graduated with a Master’s in film direction at ISIS (Institut supérieur de l'image et du son, Ouagadougou) and directed four shorts. Vivre riche (2017) is his first feature. The film delves into online scamming, a phenomenon that spread among the Ivorian youth in the years following the 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis. Akafou’s style already stands out in this award-winning debut. Interrogating documentary distance and neutrality, his immersive engagement with his subjects takes place in time and through companionship. The filmmaker shared the scammers’ routine over two years, observing their ingenuous cunning with humor and compassion, altogether suspending moral judgement. Traverser (2020), Akafou’s second documentary feature, premiered at Berlinale and won the Grand Prize at the International Film Festival Entrevues de Belfort. It follows Inza, one of the scammers of Vivre riche, as he seeks a better life in Europe. Today, Akafou passes on his enduring commitment to companion storytelling. He teaches cinema at INSAAC and is artistic advisor at the production company he founded, Films Du Continent, which strives to empower young African filmmakers in telling their stories on their own terms.

Today, more than ever, we need those stories. For, as storytellers know full well, stories heal. They allow us to come to terms with the deepest of wounds, to dream up new ways of inheriting them. The wounds Akafou touches upon are many: the political and economic crisis that left a generation of young Ivorians in disarray; the continuing violence of neo-coloniality and its plundering of Africa’s natural resources; sons who would rather die crossing the sea than in front of their mothers. But like any good story, Akafou’s are in motion: neither reducible to where they come from nor to where they are heading. “To cross”, not to arrive; “to live rich”, not to be rich. Carried by their desires, Akafou’s characters skillfully avoid all stereotypes. In Vivre riche, Inza is a scammer, whose unassailable logic convinces even the most righteous of judges. In Traverser, he is a womanizer, who keeps on falling in love. Only, he loves less those he seduces than “the landscape that is wrapped around them”, as Proust would put it. A home, a new life, self-esteem. Akafou’s cinema tracks the landscapes that populate the minds of his subjects. He shares them with us, filled as they are with laughs and tears, glamour and prayers, vulnerability and resilience. With one difference: unlike Proust’s, these landscapes go with border crossings.

Programme and texts by Jade de Cock Rameyen

Programme 1

Vivre riche
Joël Akafou, 2017, 53 min

Programme 1

Programme 2

Joël Akafou, 2020, 77 min

Programme 2
Promoted by
Gobierno de Navarra
Organized by
With the aid of
Con la financiación del Gobierno de España. Instituto de la Cinematografía y las Artes Audiovisuales Acción Cultural Española Plan de Recuperación, Transformación y Resiliencia Financiado por la Unión Europea. NexGenerationEU

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