In an unnamed African country reeling from a decade of genocidal civil war, a chance for peace. The President and his wife Edna (Adama Ouédraougo and Naky Sy Savane) are – despite the slaughter of their own son, a loss still bitterly present to Edna – travelling to a rebel encampment where Colonel Theo and his wife Soumari (Moussa Cissé and Georgette Paré) wait, wary and hopeful, to receive their entourage and establish an accord. Few among those gathered, however, are willing and able to overlook the past. Opening before dusk at a meandering dawdle and building with terrible momentum to a conflagration that threatens to halt the dawn, ‘The Night of Truth’ is at once a compendium of contemporary African ordeal – from the seeds of ethnic butchery to the labour pains of reconciliation – and a compelling local tragedy that prompts comparison with Shakespeare and the Greeks. Fanta Nacro’s numerous award-winning shorts and documentaries apply wry humour to serious subjects and this – her remarkably assured first feature – has its comic elements, but they’re laced with unease. Early on, children compare stumps and scars with the jovial rivalry of old sailors; later the bombast and insecurity of the Falstaffian clown Tomota (Rasmané Ouédraougo) become a liability or worse. Powerfully performed, punctuated by flashes of brutality and grounded in the real – the soldiers are played by soldiers, the climax inspired by the horrific death of Nacro’s own uncle – ‘Night…’ is urgently concerned with the constant vigilance necessary to check man’s bestiality. Theo delivers a masterful set-piece speech warning against choosing to set in motion the hurricane of war, fearfully observing later on that it ‘opens our souls and demons move in’. His wife, meanwhile, goes to pains to keep silent drums she fears could inflame mutual suspicion (partly a reference to the radio broadcasts that sparked the Rwandan genocide). With its final, cathartic killing, the film asserts that it can be braver and more noble to be pragmatic than passionate: if its consequences are genuinely tragic, the act is calculated to promote hope.