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French documentary-maker Emmanuel Gras won the Critics’ Week grand prize at Cannes last year with this feature, along with a clutch of other festival awards. The title is the Swahili word for charcoal.
The film is an almost wordless account of a tough, hardscrabble existence. Kabwita Kasongo is a non-professional actor effectively playing a fictional variation of himself – a young man with a wife and child living near Kolwezi, in the remote southern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He cuts down trees, and converts the chopped blocks into rough charcoal briquettes in an open-pit mine, then precariously piles great sacks of these on a wobbly bicycle, which he wheels for days to a market where they can be sold.
The journey is brutal, arduous; a relentless trudge-trudge-trudge along a baking highway with lorries roaring past engulfing him in choking dust. His improvised bike-trolley is always liable to collapse and he can be waylaid by bandits just outside of town demanding a “tax” before he can sell his goods.
The director says he was influenced by the hypnotic rhythms of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (2002). He may also have taken something from Lisandro Alonso’s quietist La Libertad (2001). It is a sad and lonely world, sympathetically captured, beautifully photographed.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Makala review – a father’s perilous quest beautifully captured | Documentary films