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 title means "look beyond appearances" in Lingala, one of the languages spoken in Central Africa. See more »
Ridiculously inspiring documentary about the coming together of a musical group formed by homeless street people, most of whom are older paraplegics, in the poverty ridden Congo. They take in a young man with his home-made, one-stringed instrument as a sort of protégé. They practice for years (the film was made over a 5 year period) before finally getting to play in Europe. The music and performances are amazing, the people even more so.
Often I find 'warm your heart' docs too sticky and manipulative. But these brave and wonderful musicians earn every bit of our admiration, respect and joy. We see the downs as well as the ups, and the film never short changes just how much work and luck have to come together for these artists to have any hope of success.
The film-makers make no pretense at staying removed and objective. They are just as won over, and in time actively become a part of trying to raise enough money to help these men live their dream, to record, and to travel with their music. (But in an understated way – this never feels like a film of self-aggrandizement). A true triumph of the human spirit story, filed with smiles against all the overwhelming odds.
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