This is Congo

 

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An outstanding documentary that ought not to be missed.

 
This is Congo
  

Another film: another country: another war. It might be thought that familiarity with such basic subject matter would in time reduce the impact and it could certainly discourage viewers from seeking out yet another movie of this kind even when, as here, the war portrayed is one which rarely captures the headlines. It would, however, be a great pity if this moving document depicting conditions in the Congo and made with immense distinction by Daniel McCabe were to be ignored. The fact that this is McCabe’s first feature film makes his achievement all the more extraordinary.

 

This Is Congo looks at the conflict which for some twenty years or so has been raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following on from the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. Its main footage relates to a five-year period from 2012 onwards, but that narrative is usefully broken up at intervals with sequences that fill in something of the country’s background history. However, the film’s principal power comes from its focus on recent times. A complex situation is clarified for the viewer by concentrating on four main figures. There’s Colonel Mamadou Ndala, an officer in President Kabila’s National Army eager to present their viewpoint, and another Colonel, ‘Kasongo’ (not the man’s real name), a former rebel who explains the outlook of the M23, the Congolese Revolutionary Army who regard the President as a corrupt man who needs to be cut down for the sake of the country. There could be no more ironical tragedy than this situation in which men with utterly opposing views all believe that they are acting in the best interests of the Congo. Meanwhile, the civilian experience is illustrated through Hakiza Nyantaba, a tailor and refugee pushed out of home after home on account of the fighting, and a mother, Babienne known as Mama Romance, who to support her young children has taken on the risky business of dealing illegally in gems for which there is a market in Rwanda and in Kenya.

 

These lives are eloquent testimonies to what has been happening in the Congo and render much of the film riveting. Late on a battle scene is rather less individual and an unexpected assassination coming out of the blue consequently lacks the footage that would fully express its impact. But, if these are slightly weaker elements, This Is Congo is still an outstanding work. McCabe is his own photographer and has the benefit of very fine editing by Alyse Ardell Speigel. That being so, this piece ranks high as sheer film craft, but what lingers in the mind is the tragedy of the Congo in the 21st century so stunningly explored here.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Mamadou Ndala, Colonel 'Kasongo', Hakiza Nyantaba, Mama Romance, and the voice of Isaach de Bankolé.

 

Dir Daniel McCabe, Pro Daniel McCabe and Alyse Ardell Speigel, Ph Daniel McCabe and Michael McCabe, Ed Alyse Ardell Speigel, Music Johnny Klimek and Gabriel Mounsey.

 

Vision Entertainment/S2BN Films/Sabotage Films Vienna/Zero Line Films-Dogwoof.
91 mins. USA/Canada/Democratic Republic of the Congo. 2017. Rel: 25 May 2018. Cert. 15.