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UGANDA – Divizionz – Yes That’s Us

Called by its own directors, the collective Yes That’s Us, a guerrilla production, Divizionz is a refreshing movie that may start a new era of Indie African cinema. Qualified by the media as streetwise, lively and cinematic, Divizionz is definitely surprising by its energy.

The movie takes us on an urban adventure into the slums of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Kapo is a leader of a group of aspiring dancehall musicians. The band wants to participate in an open mike gig, but Kapo has to deal with internal divisions within the group caused by tribal differences. Besides, Kapo trusts Bano who promises that he will provide the group with a soundtrack CD for their concert, but Bano tricks them into doing it.

The propulsive vigour of the movie is conveyed by a tremendous soundtrack (you should definitely listen to it by clicking on the link below) and as well by the rapid pace of the hand-held camera of the Ugandan Donald Mugisha and his accomplice, the South African James Tayler.

Full of colours and contagious positive energy, Divizionz is an optimistic chronicle of young Africans. In spite of the fact that drugs, poverty, and religious issues torment Kapo and his friends, they have this irresistible desire to live and make noise to express themselves with their music.

Now, we just have to hope that the Yes That’s Us will go on with their projects. And good news, the latest one, Boda Boda Thief, an Ugandan version of De Sica Bicycle Thieves, just won funding at the Euro VFF Highlight Pitch Award at the 10th edition of the Berlinale Talent Campus.

Divizionz – A Yes That’s Us movie – 2007 – 89’

Divizionz – Soundtrack

 

 

BURKINA FASO – Espoir Voyage – Michel K. Zongo

Burkina Faso is famous for its film festival, the FESPACO, but the country should be known as well for its documentaries, as an example, the astonishing movie of filmmaker Michel Zongo, Espoir Voyage.

With his hand-held camera, the Burkinabe filmmaker sets out on a personal mission to the Ivory Coast in order to look for his brother’s past, years after his death. The brother Joanny like many young Burkinabe travelled to the Ivory Coast with the intention to work on cocoa and coffee plantations. But Joanny never returned. One day, Augustin, the cousin, announced his death with this sentence: “Joanny stayed in the bush”. Yet, Michel Zongo never really knew if Joanny was actually dead. Haunted by the ghost of his brother, the director decided to do the same trip from Burkina Faso to the Ivory Coast as Joanny did. In his mind, this main question: Who was Joanny and how did he live and die?

The travel begins in a crumbling bus, which seems to come from a Fellini movie. During the long road trip, Michel Zongo films the prayers, the faces and the hopes of the Burkinabe moving to an Ivory Coast divided in two by civil war. Once there, Zongo meets a whole Burkinabe community who work under ruthless conditions on cocoa and coffee plantations. They all hope to earn a lot of money in a short period of time before returning home. Yet frequently, the reality is far away from their aspirations. Facing those labourers, the filmmaker admits his ignorance regarding their conditions. Indeed, living in the capital Ouagadougou, he doesn’t know, for example, the simple colour of a ripe coffee bean.

When Michel Zongo finally meets people who knew his brother, what remains is the uneasy impression that people can rapidly disappear from a family memory.

Espoir Voyage is an impressive tribute to those who leave and never come back, a story of migrations inside Africa haunted by ghosts, but also full of hope.

Espoir Voyage – Michel K. Zongo – 2011 – 81’

Espoir Voyage – Trailer

CHAD – A Screaming Man – Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

Cannes 2010, an African director won the Jury Prize. With A Screaming Man, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun asserts himself as one of the best directors of the last decade. The filmmaker was born in Chad in 1960, the year the country became independent. When the civil war exploded in 1980, he left the country for exile and finally landed in France where he studied film and journalism.

Cannes 2010

War and cinema are linked for the Chadian director. His first feature Bye Bye Africa (1999) deals with the lack of cinema in his native country, devastated by war. Then in Abouna, two boys decide to look for their missing father and find him on a cinema screen. Daratt (2006) started the director‘s recognition. In this movie, a young man who desires to put an end to his tragic past is determined to find the man who murdered his father.

Haroun’s first features set up the basis of his cinema that will shine in A Screaming Man. Three main concerns are revealed by his movies: Relationships between father and son, leaving a country and going back, and as we already said, war and cinema. The director’s achievement is to create tension between those concerns. In A Screaming Man, it results in a personal tragedy of parental betrayal, which becomes a universal issue.

In present-day Chad, Adam, a former swimming champion, is a pool attendant at a smart N’Djamena hotel. When the hotel gets taken over by new Chinese owners, he is forced to give up his job to his son Abdel. While Adam faces social humiliation, Rebel forces attack the government and the country goes into civil war. The authorities ask the population for a war effort contribution, giving money or volunteers to fight. The District Chief constantly harasses Adam for his contribution. But Adam has no money, he only has his son.

Despite the title of the movie, Adam never screams and rarely raises his voice. All his pain is expressed in silence. As its character, A Screaming Man is striking by its quietness and its tenderness. This atmosphere is given by the slow rhythm based on the ordinary life and the stillness inside the frame, inspired by Haroun’s favourite director, Ozu.

A Screaming Man is an anti-war movie where the battlefield is far away. We just hear the sounds of helicopters and see the images of a fleeing population, Chadian soldiers and United Nations troops. Despite this apparent distance, war is deep inside each family like that of Adam’s broken by the resentment of an old father towards his young son. Vanity, jealousy and anger expressed by the characters thus become the symbol of a country’s madness.

A Screaming Man – Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – 2010 – 82’