Summer 2009. Five paraplegics and a young able-bodied teenager light up the stage in front of an entranced audience of 8000 people. "Benda Bilili" - in English "See Beyond", is the name of ... See full summary »
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Summer 2009. Five paraplegics and a young able-bodied teenager light up the stage in front of an entranced audience of 8000 people. "Benda Bilili" - in English "See Beyond", is the name of this Kinshasa band which has acquired a global following. Chances of success were slim at first for these homeless handicapped artists who struggled to survive on the streets of their dilapidated capital. "Benda Bilili" is not a music film, it's the story of a dream that became reality. And a plunge into the streets of Kinshasa without a safety net. Written by
The first scene sets the tone. One of the happiest and most joyous musics starts and what you see is a middle-aged cripple (a man deprived of his legs). And the cripple dances to the music -- and I mean it: the guy doesn't move around by the beat of the music, he really dances. Amazing.
Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye have followed a band made of four homeless paraplegics and three "abled" men, the Staff Benda Bilili, from the streets of Kinshasa, Congo, to music festivals in the cities of Europe. Some have guitars and wonderful voices, some have a wire on a tin or pieces of wood to beat. Another success story? Yes, but there is more to it. There are ups and downs, as life isn't always easy in one of the poorest countries on earth, especially when you have just a sheet of cardboard on which to sleep.
The two filmmakers started to befriend the leader of the band, Ricky, and after becoming enchanted by Benda Bilili's terrific music, they decided to help the small group make a recording. At the time, they had no idea that their commitment would take five years. The other striking character is young Roger, a street child with a gift for music at the beginning of the documentary, a man and an accomplished musician at the end of the film. It's moving to watch him grow, escaping from gang life and God knows what, and making his dreams come true. It's too bad though that we don't learn much about the members of the band, but given the budgetary restraints under which the film was made, I think that it was merely impossible for the filmmakers to delve into this subject.
Look out for "Benda Bilili!" if you can, especially of you dig in African music or/and "cinéma vérité".
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