“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’s 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’s because stories told by Africans have not sufficiently reached overseas media markets. You know what they say: “Until Lions write their own history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”.”
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 “this is how high your dreams can get you, they can get you above the clouds”. 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.”