Stéphane Bak, an actor who goes from laughter to dramas

By Clémentine Goldszal

Posted today at 01:45

Stéphane Bak, in Paris, November 28, 2021.

We are looking in the very tall and athletic silhouette of Stéphane Bak for something of the weakling adolescent who, ten years ago, wrote a column on the set of the “Grand Journal” and made Michel Denisot curl up with his clumsy valves. This had lasted the time of a Cannes Film Festival and two seasons of the show on Canal +. Then, in the eye of what was then called “the youngest comedian in France”, maturity arrived. Stéphane Bak has become an actor.

His banter, his charismaentertainer have seduced directors like Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar (who gave her her first ” true “ role in 2014, in The heirs), Paul Verhoeven (She) or Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch). In 2019, he went on to two leading roles. In Roads, of the German Sebastian Schipper, Stéphane Bak is a young Congolese on his way to France, who embarks on an improbable journey with an Englishman in family rupture. In Farewell to the night, by André Téchiné, he plays a rigorous imam who organizes the departure for Syria of a young white man in search of meaning.

Speak to first-hand witnesses

Two years later, at the age of 25, here he is on the bill Twist in Bamako, the new feature film by the figure of committed auteur cinema, Robert Guédiguian. A period film, shot in Africa, where Bak becomes Samba, the privileged son of a wealthy entrepreneur who tries to propagate socialist ideology in Mali, after independence.

To prepare for the role and learn more about Senegal (where the film was shot) and Mali (where the story takes place), Stéphane Bak wanted to speak to direct witnesses. “There is a large Senegalese community in Blanc-Mesnil [Seine-Saint-Denis], where I grew up, he explains. I also asked some Malian friends to tell me about this time, and spoke with people who were in Bamako at the beginning of the 1960s and had lived this period of revolutionary celebration which followed independence. “

He says it with modesty, but with this film, it is also the story of his own family that he intends to get closer and thus explore his “Africanness”: ” Twist in Bamako, it’s also an opportunity to make a film that speaks to my parents, to my genealogy ”, he explains evoking his father, who “Basked in French politics, and went to the headquarters of the PS rue de Solferino for the elections.”

Determination and life force

Stéphane Bak is one of the first young people on whom the profession keeps an eye. But his skin color is not without consequence. From the start of his film career, he dreams of roles that take him ” far from [lui]– even and from where we [l]’attend », but at the beginning, it is the proposals of comedies which flow. “On paper, I have nothing, he specifies, but the roles that I am offered are sometimes discriminating and not very inventive. ” He remembers the script for a movie that ended up making “More than 4 million admissions” and or “The joke was that I smile in the dark and that I can be recognized by my teeth…” He specifies : “It was not in 1980, but in 2016! “

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Stéphane Bak, an actor who goes from laughter to dramas