Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pièces d'identités

1998, France/DR Congo/Belgium, directed by Mweze Ngangura

Mweze Ngangura has carved out his own path as an African filmmaker, moving away from the more consciously 'artistic' work of many of other directors and making use instead of a comic tone and sometimes conventional plots to tell stories of contemporary Congo. This 1998 feature is no exception: the plot has more coincidences than a vaudeville play, and implies that Brussels has only a few dozen inhabitants, so frequently do their paths intersect, but underneath the genial tone, there's a forceful commentary on the realities encountered by African immigrants (and visitors) in Europe, and the difficult search for identity when far from home.

Ngangura is a clear-eyed commentator, though; along with the exposure of the lingering colonial mentality in Belgium, he points out that some Africans, too, are stuck in the past, with a re-examination of traditional attitudes - to women, for example - long overdue. He also presents a more nuanced portrait of the coloniser than is sometimes the case, while there's a great deal of poignancy in the relationship between a Belgian cop (and former colonial official) and a Congolese king, who symbolize the missed opportunity for a meaningful encounter between two cultures.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States