Charles Blé Goudé wants to be the power behind the leaders of his country. He wants to be the Karl Rove of African politics.
A civil war in 2002 left Côte d'Ivoire divided in two. The North is controlled by a rebel group, the South is controlled by a government supported militia led by former student leader Blé Goudé.
From 2006 to 2010 international mediators attempt to lead the two sides to reconciliation and elections.
Blé Goudé campaigns for the current president, his former college professor, using the media to exploit the youth against the rebel movement, led by former friends Sidiki Konaté and Soro Guillaume.
With intimate access to Blé Goudé’s inner circle, Shadow Work captures the rarely-achieved process of the making of a political power.
Directors Notes 2006.
I began my career as a cameraman in Israel and Palestine covering street violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It was fascinating to see these events play out on international television, but I came into the story late in the game, the conflict was established and the public’s perception of the story already understood.
In Afghanistan I faced the same thing; it was hard to find an explanation that went deeper into the historical context of the conflict. What were the prerequisites for violence? I wanted to know more.
The conflict in Côte d'Ivoire was a good place to start. Despite a fragile ceasefire many in the international community were concerned the situation could explode into another Rwanda. Here was a conflict that was explained in the media as a predominantly religious dispute between Muslims in the North and Christians in the South.
The main character in the film, Charles Blé Goudé, a young, charismatic, Western educated confidant of the President, had taken on the messaging of the USA’s fight against terrorism as his own. The coup in his country was his 9/11, the Rebels were terrorists and he and his followers were the ‘Patriots’.
It was as if he was reading foreign medias explanation of conflict and using it in his own spin campaign to influence his followers. The reality on the ground, however, was very different. The simple fact that the leader of the Northern rebellion was actually a Christian was lost on all international media that had described the conflict as religious.
In making this film I answered many of my questions. I am not a high profile journalist, politician or activist but maybe with this film I can give people a different way to look at conflict. Perhaps this can create some kind of dialogue, another interpretation, an alternative to mainstream media’s sometimes brief coverage of these situations. That’s what I can do and that’s what I’ll continue to do as long as people are interested. (1/23/07)
Directors Notes 2011.
It’s March of 2011 and Charles Blé Goudé is now a Minister in the Gbagbo government. The Ivorian Army, the ones that remain loyal to Gbagbo, have surrounded the Gulf Hotel, the temporary home of the newly elected President Alassane Ouattara. On the BBC I am watching Blé Goudé ‘encourage’ his many thousands of youth followers to join the army and remove Ouattara. Blé Goudé is fulfilling his prophecy. Everything he told me he would do he has done. In the last few months there have been hundreds of deaths and many fear a full scale genocide. Meanwhile Côte d'Ivoire continues to be a small blip on the international news wire. (3/22/11)
Original score composed by Blake Leyh (HBO's The Wire, Treme and The Most Dangerous Man in America).
Original music written and performed by Ivorian recording artists Kajeem, Pepsy, Lyrics D and Garba 50.
Distributed by JOURNEYMAN PICTURES