Movies – Viva! This Afro-film for all the world...Viva!

2011-10-07 14:04

Film: Viva Riva! (Indigenous Film)
Director: Djo Tunda wa Munga
Featuring: Patsha Bay Mukuna, Manie Malone, Hji Fortuna and Diplome Amekindra
Rating: 7/10

In South Africa, we pride ourselves on being the economic powerhouse of Africa, but sadly we fall behind in our cultural output.

Although our films tend to gain international attention, we struggle to tell stories that are compelling and unselfconscious enough to be truly universal beyond a retelling of the grand apartheid narrative.

Our filmmakers could learn a thing or two from a young Congolese director named Djo Tunda wa Munga, who is showing the way with a film that breaks through narrative boundaries.

Viva Riva! is a story set in Kinshasa against the backdrop of the lives of young men who are involved in the fuel-smuggling trade across the Angola-Democratic Republic of the Congo border. This is a destructive, short-lived occupation that almost always ends in violence.

We meet the protagonist, Riva, who returns home after a decade with a truck-full of stolen petrol.

True to the form of the men on whose lives this story is based, Riva goes on a money burning party replete with sex, alcohol and violence. He falls in love with the beautiful wife of a local bandit, while visiting brothels and destruction upon the lives of everyone he touches.

The cast of characters includes his best friend, a young hawker, an old madam and her “girls”, a lesbian commandant and the local fuel middleman. While Riva goes on the party trail, César, the Angolan gangster from whom he stole the fuel, is on a mission to find Riva, kill him and get his fuel back.

Tunda wa Munga says the animosity and racism that he portrays between Angolans and Congolese in Viva Riva! is mirrored by reality. “Relations among the Africans are not the best,” he says.

The cast includes actors who are based in different cities across the world. On getting them all to come together in Kinshasa to shoot the film, Tunda wa Munga says that getting the right talent is crucial because “if you compromise on talent, you compromise on the quality of the film at the end and it shows”.

Viva Riva! is gritty, infused with the darker elements of fantasy and magical realism, and the characters stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

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