Thoroughly modern and raw Congolese filmmaking
The story begins in the town of Kinshasa, Congo, in the middle of an extreme gasoline shortage.
Living true to the old adage that “desperate times call for desperate measures,” the carefree protagonist, Riva, steals a fortune in gasoline and returns to his petroleum-starved hometown to sell the goods, make a pretty penny, and live life like a king.
Riva is distracted from the plan from the moment he lays his eyes on Nora, the girlfriend of a big-time gangster, and determines that he will do whatever it takes to get her.
From Riva waiting on his gasoline deal to pay out, to his relentless pursuit of Nora, to trying his best to evade Cesar—the Angolan crime lord Riva steals the gasoline from—this film keeps the audience on edge through its entirety.
Fortunately, the subtitles do not make it difficult to follow the storyline. If anything, expect to become so enthralled with the characters that eventually you understand what is going on even without reading every word.
The action is ever going, and the film, which is raw and riddled with violence, sex, and crude language, offers a sense of realism and a window into life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Our work on Viva Riva! was resolutely modern. The film dives into its depiction of tough situations so forthrightly that we hope it will help sweep away some of the old school perceptions of Africa and African art,” said writer-director-producer Djo Tunda Wa Munga. “Our aim was simply to work without fear or shame of who we are and the issues we face today.”
“I hope, especially for young people coming up, that this film will be a convincing argument that we can make it as a society, and that cinema can be part of our lives,” said Munga.
Viva Riva! was the winner of the Pan African Film Festival 2011 for best feature film, and took home six awards in the 2011 Africa Movie Academy Awards including best film and best director.
The film is the first Congolese feature film distributed in the United States. It will play June 10 at the Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. Show times are: 12:30, 2:50, 5:10, 7:30 and 9:50 p.m.
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“ . . . the cost to rent the theater has become prohibitive; it’s been going up, and we can no longer afford to go there based on the services we are given,” explained Ayuko Babu, festival co-founder.