“The Congo is more than its territory, which ultimately has been contained within¬†arbitrary frontiers: throughout its politics and history of colonisation. For me, it‚Äôs about¬†something far beyond a national identity, something even beyond culture, because¬†ultimately culture can tear people apart. I call it Congo because I have to be¬†understood, but in the end what it really means to me is the essence of the country (its¬†nature), and the soul of the people living there.” I am Congo is a short film series by¬†David Mboussou¬†which he made with¬†Juan Ignacio Davila¬†as co-directors, -executive producers and -DOPs. A¬†self-taught filmmaker, Mboussou was born and raised in Gabon, and endeavours to highlight¬†the cultural and natural heritage¬†of Africa through his work.
In ‘Welcome to Brazza’ we’re able to follow a discussion between Brazzaville’s Sapeurs¬†(The Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People), meet a fetishist wrestler known as Pharaoh, and step inside an art studio. The video is released as part of a cinematic series called I am Congo whose aim, Mboussou says, is “to show the Africa the media rarely shows, a place where you can find beauty and¬†hope, just like any other place on earth. If people are used to see only the negative¬†side of Africa, maybe it‚Äôs because stories told by Africans have not sufficiently¬†reached overseas media markets.¬†You know what they say: ‚ÄúUntil Lions write their own¬†history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter‚Äù.”
Newly signed with Velocity Afrika, Mboussou describes the experience of shooting I am Congo¬†as “Unpredictable and boundary breaking!” Each episode was improvised over and above a basic itinerary prepared by a Congolese friend. The rest came down to making connections with people that they met and convincing them to be in the videos.¬†The filmmakers had to employ hard work and ingenuity to get the shots they wanted. Aerial shots were achieved by¬†tying the¬†tripod and camera to the door of a helicopter. For ‘Rise of Nature’ they trekked 3 hours into the jungle to film wild gorillas and elephants, for the river shots they had to balance six people and two cinema cameras on a dugout canoe.
“I got really emotional when I took aerial shots of the Congo: for the first time in my¬†life I was in a helicopter, close to the clouds, with these amazing landscapes under¬†my eyes, and there I told myself ‚Äúthis is how high your dreams can get you, they¬†can get you above the clouds‚Äù. The second memorable moment was probably when a¬†Congolese man who had seen me growing, 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 the people¬†around me with my crazy film ideas and telling people that one day I would make¬†movies. He told me he thought I would quickly forget all about these crazy dreams¬†and start thinking about doing something serious and reasonable, something an¬†African can reasonably dream of. 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 felt blessed.”