Dieudo Hamadi’s documentary chronicling the splintered attempts by the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo to oust Joseph Kabila is a bleak but engrossing film, building on previous work examining the socio-political landscape of his homeland. The personalities and political narratives woven in alongside Dieudo Hamadi’s eye for a symbolic shot give KINSHASA MAKAMBO its cinematic qualities.
Focused upon the protests greeting the anticipated intransigence of Joseph Kabila as his mandatory presidential term limit nears, KINSHASA MAKAMBO follows three key people in the resistance scene. Ben has returned from exile in the USA to help try oust the autocrat, Jean-Marie has recently been released from prison, and Christian is the most involved with the protests as the film opens.
Dieudo Hamadi’s camera is very much on the front line of the violent protests characterising the movement. It is jarring to hear activists castigate each other for “fleeing at the slightest bullet”, and the manner of interspersing this footage with the various activist groups bickering about strategy lends the urgent feel of an unfolding event.
The narrative beats centre around these discussions – some advocating for more radical action, others putting their weight behind veteran oppositional politician Etienne Tshisekedi (despite complaints he “puts [energised people] back to sleep with his speeches”), some scenes where they recount why they feel the efforts are important. As those efforts escalate, fractures propagate and give KINSHASA MAKAMBO a building tension that can often escape documentaries (particularly of events we know the ending of: Kabila is, predictably, still in power at publication. He is scheduled to step down in December 2018, albeit with loyalists installed across DRC bureaucracy).
“Dieudo Hamadi shows great skill in visual statements to augment or undermine the tension from the activists’ energy.”
Dieudo Hamadi shows great skill in visual statements to augment or undermine the tension from the activists’ energy. Early on, there is a transition from an abrupt cut to black from the protests to a gentle movement of black water, as if to indicate these events ebb and flow for the DRC. Later, amid a rising expectation of a final planned protest to oust Kabila, the film cuts sharply to empty and quiet Kinshasa highways and streets. Declarations of “more people will get shot […] but it’s better this way” prove to be undermined by opposition infighting and systemic corruption weakening momentum.
KINSHASA MAKAMBO is not an uplifting chronicle – the text codas also make this abundantly clear – but is a visually and narratively gripping record of why civilian opposition rises and how they can fall apart. The tale is sharp and vivid in presentation, but bleak in outlook.
KINSHASA MAKAMBO is is screening at the 2018 Open City Documentary Festival on Friday 7th September. Read other coverage of the festival here.