Reframing Africa

Short Films about Congo which Aim to Shed New Light

Filmmakers David Mboussou and Juan Ignacio Davila are on something of a mission. They want to offer an alternative view of Africa, rarely seen by the mainstream media in the rest of the world. After collaborating on a film about David’s native Gabon, they have again joined forces to make a series of insightful and beautifully-shot shorts called I Am Congo.

I AM CONGO Ep.1

“It might seem really simple, but Africa is so misunderstood and so misrepresented that the simple fact of showing ordinary people and ordinary places is already a big deal,” David tells us. Along with touching portraits of the everyday lives of the people of Congo, there are also spectacular shots of the scenery and wildlife, creating a rich and diverse tapestry which no doubt reflects the real beauty of this little-understood nation.

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“I would say that we have the wish to show common people as well as completely atypical characters, their soul, their surface and their environment,” Juan concurs. “Not just the ‘clichés’ we are used to seeing”. The resulting shorts move away from the exoticisation that we so often see with travel films, instead getting right to the heart of this country and its people in a way that encourages understanding whilst still managing to inspire awe.

I AM CONGO Ep.2

We got David and Juan together to tell us more:

The Plus: How did this project come about?
David Mboussou:
Daniele Sassou Nguesso, the Producer, told us after she watched a film we made in Gabon, if we could come to Congo and apply the same treatment and keep the same editorial line that drove us during our previous project, which was to show the Africa the media rarely shows, a place where you can find beauty and hope, just like any other place on earth.

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TP: Why do you think Africa is so frequently misrepresented in the media?
Juan Ignacio Davila:
It is often simpler to support a reality of surface than open your eyes to the deep reality. And what the media want to show often in a report of a few minutes, it is the reality of surface, accommodating with what the public think they already know about Africa.
DM: You know what they say : ‘Until Lions write their own history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter’. There is no absolute truth, there are just stories told through specific lenses. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So if people are used to seeing Africa from a specific point of view, maybe it’s because stories told by Africans themselves have not sufficiently reached overseas media markets.

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TP: What were your most memorable moments from the experience?
DM:
A Congolese man who had seen me growing up, told me how happy he was to see me fulfilling my childhood dream of being a filmmaker by doing such an ambitious project: he had kept a vivid memory of me as a young boy annoying all people around with my crazy film ideas and telling people that one day I would make movies.
The fact that in the end, he saw me fulfilling what he always had considered as unreachable had made him reconsider everything about dreams and high expectations. I got really emotional when I realised that the simple fact of being able to do what I had always dreamt of, could change other’s people perception about their own dreams. I felt blessed.

JD: Every place we visited left in me an indelible mark. To discover a country by wanting to tell it to others, forces you to look more and more, to listen to and to smell the odours. If I was forced to give a favourite place, it would be the forest, where man is at the mercy of forces of Nature.

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TP: Where else would you like to cover in future and will you work together again?
DM:
I still don’t know, many doors are open. I think that we’ll keep working together in one way or another!
JD: Our discussions often lead us to the world of dreams. In every case, there are some dreams which have come true since we began to work together. Now, we will extend this adventure.

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Watch I AM CONGO Ep.3 here.

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