Length: 86 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 16 May 2011
Cat No: TF014
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French filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye direct this rags-to-riches documentary telling the story of Benda Bilili, a... Read More
This documentary covers five years in the career of Staff Benda Bilili, a band formed on the streets of the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. The core musicians are middle-aged men left paraplegic by polio, augmented by street kids recruited by the group’s patriarch, ‘Papa Ricky’.
The early scenes take us right into the heart of their day-to-day struggle to survive, and it’s clear that their music gets its strength and its edge from the resilience of the Congolese in the face of unremitting hardship. And what music it is! Gregarious, up-tempo rumba with bluesy hard-times lyrics and declarations of ambition, even if that ambition is just to sleep on a mattress rather than cardboard.
Glinting through the film’s elliptical construction is a coming-of-age story, as Roger, a young loner who plays dazzling solos on his tiny self-made instrument, passes through adolescence and begins to learn responsibility. When the band’s horizons expand dramatically, it’s impossible not to cheer them on. This is a must for fans of African music – and music generally.