2004, Burkina Faso/France, directed by Fanta Régina Nacro (original title: La Nuit de la vérité)
Set in an unnamed African country in the aftermath of a brutal civil war, Fanta Régina Nacro's début feature inevitably invites comparison with other films that have emerged since the Rwandan genocide, although Nacro's film is also inspired - in the director's own telling - by the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone/Liberia. Like Raoul Peck's television film about Rwanda, Sometimes in April, The Night of Truth is brutally honest - sometimes gruesomely so - about the realities of war, leaving no room for audience complacency, while Nacro is sharply perceptive about the kinds of sacrifices that may be required to effect true peace; she also foregrounds the critical role of women in ensuring that peace, once the men have laid down their arms (here, unlike in some of the conflicts that inspired the film, the warring sides are two armies rather than rag-tag bands of guerrillas).
After the gentler yet probing tone of her short films, The Night of Truth comes as a strikingly different choice of subject matter for the director, but she marries a serious theme with anecdotes of daily life - featuring, for example, women at work in the kitchen, or soldiers conversing - in a manner similar to that of Abderrahmane Sissako's more recent Bamako, an effective strategy that ensures that the conflict and its consequences are seen in vividly human terms, rather than remaining distant abstractions. Nacro extracts solid performances from the many non-professionals in the cast - who include all of the soldiers - but she also benefits from two exceptional female leads, who play the wives of the two men who have come together to hammer out a peace.