Netflix’s In His Shadow: Is the Movie Rooted in Reality?

Netflix’s ‘In His Shadow’ (originally titled ‘Le Roi des Ombres’) is a French crime thriller movie directed by Marc Fouchard. It tells the story of Adama and Ibrahim, half-brothers who find themselves on different sides of a conflict plaguing their local community. The conflict escalates after the death of Adama and Ibrahim’s father and leads to devastating consequences for the half-bothers. Given the complex relationship between the brothers and the emotional nuances of the narrative, viewers must wonder if the film is based on real events. If you are looking for the inspiration behind ‘In His Shadow,’ here is everything you need to know!

In His Shadow is Not a True Story

No, ‘In His Shdaow’ is not based on a true story. The film is based on an original concept from French rapper Kaaris, who was himself inspired by a Malian legend. Okou Gnakouri Armand Olivier, better known by his stage name Kaaris is an Ivorian-born French rapper, record producer, composer, and actor. He began his rapping career in 1999 before transitioning to acting in the 2015 action film ‘Braqueurs’ directed by Julien Leclercq. His first collaboration with Netflix is the 2020 crime drama movie ‘Bronx‘ (also known as ‘Rogue City’), written and directed by Olivier Marchal.

After his first project with Netflix, Kaaris pitched the concept of ‘In His Shdaow’ to the streaming service. He teamed up with Marc Fouchard, who wrote the screenplay and directed it. Kaaris’ concept was reportedly inspired by the legend of Malian king Sundiata Keita (also referred to as Sunjata or Son-Jara) detailed in the poem ‘Epic of Sundiata.’ The legend dates back to the 13th century and details the life of Sundiata Keita, who became the first King and founder of the Mali Empire. Although several versions of the legend exist, most follow a singular storyline depicting Sundiata Keita as a disabled person.

According to most versions of the legends, he was the son of King Naré Maghann and his wife, Sassouma Bereté. Sundiata and his mother faced cruelty at the hands of his paternal half-brother, Dankaran Touman, and Dankaran’s mother, Sassouma Bereté. After the death of Naré Maghann, the cruelty towards Sundiata increased, but he miraculously started walking and amassed a following, becoming a leader in his own right. However, Dankaran Touman succeeded his father and ascended the throne, while Sundiata, his mother, and his sisters went into exile. Nontheless, Sundiata returned to his kingdom years later and took over as King after the battle of Kirina.

The film follows the basic premise of Sundiata’s story but changes several aspects while translating it to a modern Parisian suburb. In the film, Adama Keita serves as the fictional counterpart for Sundiata, while his half-brother is Ibrahim. The brothers live in a middle-class Parisian suburb, and their family dynamic loosely represents that between Sundiata and Dankaran. However, in the movie, Adama is unable to see instead of unable to walk. The conflict between the brothers escalates after the death of their father, similar to the Malian legend.

However, the movie uses the semi-historical legend to tell the story of fictional characters experiencing the plights of living in an underprivileged working-class community. Ibrahim is a local gang leader who enters a turf war with his rival while Adama gets caught up in the conflict. As a result, the film explores the banality of evil as both brothers commit horrific crimes due to their circumstances. Thus, the movie starkly deviates from the original legend, only using the story of Sundiata to set up the basic premise of two brothers who find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict.

Instead, the movie explores the criminal activities in Parisian housing projects and how they affect the daily lives of ordinary people trying to make an honest living. The movie also explores the theme of weakness and strength in a David vs. Goliath situation between the brothers. However, Adama must overcome his weakness and make it his strength to persevere against his damning circumstances, capturing the spirit of the original legend. All things said, ‘In His Shdaow’ is not based on a true story. Despite its obvious connection to the legend Sundiata Keita, the film takes a look at life in a Parisian suburb where crime and honesty co-exist and conversely affect everyday life. Thus, the characters appear more human due to their circumstances, lending the film a semblance of reality.

Read More: Where Was Netflix’s In His Shadow Filmed?