Cinema of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Cinema of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) originated with educational and propaganda films during the colonial era of the Belgian Congo. Development of a local film industry after the Democratic Republic of the Congo became independent in 1960 was handicapped by constant civil war.
During the colonial era, before the DRC gained independence as Zaire, the Belgian Congo administration did not let Africans watch foreign films. The official reason was that the locals would not understand the difference between fact and fiction. In fact, the authorities were afraid that the films would cause subversive behavior. However, the government's Film and Photo Bureau made films for the local population in the 1940s, with educational or propaganda themes. African workers were employed by the bureau and were taught the basic techniques of film production.
Two companies run by Catholic priests also employed Africans in making films that taught religious virtues. These were the Congolese Center for Catholic Action Cinema (CCCAC) in Léopoldville and Africa Films in Kivu. The CCCAC created a series of short films named Les Palabres de Mboloko that starring an animated antelope. The government kept firm control over the format and content of the films produced by these two companies. Belgavox was founded in 1950 in Brussels by George Fannoy. This company made documentaries and news items in the DRC.
Following independence in 1960 the country experienced a series of civil wars that largely destroyed the nascent film industry. Foreign support has allowed some directors to create movies in the DRC, notably from the French Ministry of foreign affairs. The government has shown little sign of assisting development of a local film industry. Almost all DRC filmmakers live and work abroad.
Mwezé Ngangura is the best known Congolese director, making his first short film "Tamtam électronique" in 1973 and the first Congolese feature movie La Vie est Belle in 1987. His Pieces d'Identity, a musical comedy, won the Stallion de Yennenga at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou '99. Raoul Peck, a Haitian who was brought up in Zaire, directed the documentary Lumumba. La mort d'un prophète (1991), about the life of Patrice Lumumba, who led the country into independence. Kibushi N'djate Wooto produced the animated short Crapaud chez ses beaux-parents in 1992 with French funding. In 1994 Josef Kumbela made the short Perle noire, which he followed with a series of other short films. Jose Laplaine's comic drama Macadam Tribu (1996) made fun of the constant quest for money, status and sex in Africa's urban neighborhoods. Petna Ndaliko is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker and activist who is also the co-Founder and Director of the cultural center Yole!Africa and subsequently also the Salaam Kivu International Film Festival (SKIFF). SKIFF is the first film festival in the DRC and today brings together over 15,000 youth in a span of just ten days. The festival screens international and local cinema, and has an Open Air concert and Numerous Dance Competitions. In 2014 SKIFF will celebrate its 10th Edition.
However, as recorded in Guy Bomanyama-Zandu's 2005 documentary Le Congo, quel cinéma!, local productions today have difficulty making money. The film follows three Congolese technicians (Claude Mukendi, Pierre Mieko, and Paul Manvidia-Clarr) and Ferdinand Kanza, a director who made films in the 1970s and now works at the National Radio Television of Congo. Another 2005 documentary by the same director, La Mémoire du Congo en péril, describes the Congolese Film Library. The library owns thousands of films that form part of the history of Congolese cinema, some dating as far back as 1935. They are in extremely poor condition and in danger of being lost.
In 2009 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was using the cinema to break taboos on discussing rape, which was commonplace during the civil wars. The documentary Breaking the Silence covers sexual violence and abuse of women, topics that most people are reluctant to discuss. It was made by IF Productions of the Netherlands and is being screened by a mobile cinema operated by Search for Common Ground (SFCG), a US-based NGO. Screenings are often open-air, with power provided by a generator.
The filmmaker Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda helped organize the first Semaine du film congolais (Sefico) festival in May 2011 at Le Zoo, a cultural center. In July 2001 Balufu Bakupa Kanyinda announced at the Festival du cinéma africain in Khouribga, Morocco that he intended to acquire four cinemas in Kinshasa. He was looking for partners to help acquire the cinemas to serve Kinshasa, a city with ten million inhabitants but no cinemas at all.
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