in SWAG high profiles issue 3
interview Khady Diallo
« At my age, I have decided to commit myself to new challenges as an actor. Whenever possible, I am quite anxious to do what really matters to me: introduce my country, the continent, and above all help the youth believe in the future by learning to know others, living other experiences, watching many more movies, so they can work and make a living off that job. I also have plans for a film that will take place in Côte d’Ivoire. We’ll shoot in the north of the country, in the west and in Abidjan. »
– Isaach De Bankolé
(…) In 1987, Isaach De Bankolé won the Cesar award for the best promising male actor for Black Mic Mac, his first significant role in a movie. In France, as a black individual winning that award, it was revolutionary. However, despite the recognition, it was followed by the bitter disappointment of a short success. France was stunned by a black comedian full of talent, yet he didn’t become a bankable actor. Instead, too much prejudice and no meaningful opportunities followed.
He consolidated his reputation by adding another dimension to his career through theatre, thanks to playwrights such as Patrice Chéreau and Bernard-Marie Koltès.
Bitter and frustrated for not being able to make a living in the French movie business, he decided to try his luck in the United States. Today, after all those years, he says he has experienced the path strewn with obstacles an African actor has to suffer, yet he never gave up.
© SWAG high profiles
Through consistency, he lives a quiet yet demanding career. As an actor, producer and director, his filmography and theatre participations are impressive because of their quality and diversity. Isaach De Bankolé has also played leading roles with for Claire Denis (Chocolat, No Fear No Die, White Material), Lars Von Trier (Manderlay) and with Jim Jarmusch (Night On Earth, Ghost Dog, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Limits Of Control). Before Black Panther, he played notable roles in movies such as Miami Vice (Michael Man), Casino Royale (Martin Campbell), The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (Julian Schnabel), or 24H on TV. In September 2019, Isaach De Bankolé was awarded the “Excellence in career” prize at the Montreal Black Film Festival. In 2020 he stars alongside Michelle Pfeiffer on the poster of the movie FRENCH EXIT, an independent American movie directed by Azazel Jacobs.
In 1997, he directed an all-new documentary on Jazz with his then-wife, the artist Cassandra Wilson. This rare documentary is almost impossible to find today. It is about Cassandra Wilson’s Australian and New Zealand tour. This journey is cadenced by unexpected encounters: Wynton Marsalis, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson and Keanu Reeves. Shot in several cities, it evolves into a one-hour documentary enriched with interviews and unpublished testimonies, under the poignant power of Jazz. (…) Find the full version of these text and interview in SWAG high profiles issue 3
Isaach De Bankolé is very careful concerning his TV statements and his interviews. Is it discretion or mistrust? In any case, when he is available, it is always a pleasure to have a conversation with him. Recently, he has been kind enough to accept an interview to talk about his projects. We know the actor travels back and forth to New York and Abidjan where he’s been forced to stay amid the COVID health crisis.
Khady Diallo: The sad news of the sudden passing of Chadwick Boseman, who played the title role of Black Panther, has shocked fans, Hollywood and the black world. This is huge a loss for the diaspora in many ways. What do you remember from your collaboration? Of his lightning career?
Isaach De Bankolé: He was an actor that I admired, for whom I had great esteem, because he was talented and humble. We like each other and had a very warm relationship while filming BP. I will also remember his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in 42, and James Brown in Get on Up, both absolutely remarkable. His sudden disappearance is a huge loss for, it took all our breath away. I still have a hard time getting over it.
What are your current plans, Isaach? I am working on a festival, the International Film Festival of Abidjan, the IFFA. I have been on it for two years, and I think I’ve found excellent partners. They are all very enthusiastic about the upcoming international selection and all the cinema celebrities that will be there. It is suitable for everybody and Abidjan still lacks significant cinema events. I cross fingers, and the first edition will take place in September 2021!
Organizing such an event must be time demanding. Does cinema give you that kind of time? At my age, I have decided to commit myself to new challenges as an actor. Whenever possible, I am quite anxious to do what really matters to me: introduce my country, the continent, and above all help the youth believe in the future by learning to know others, living other experiences, watching many more movies, so they can work and make a living off that job. I also have plans for a film that will take place in Côte d’Ivoire. We’ll shoot in the north of the country, in the west and in Abidjan.(…) Find the full version of these text and interview in SWAG high profiles issue 3