The series Kinshasa Calling: A Dieudo Hamadi Double Bill is playing on MUBI in many countries starting on September 13, 2021.
When you have abilities that others don’t have, skills, tools, to witness a drama, a tragedy, you can’t stay silent. In 2015, when I decided to make the film, the repression against young Congolese people fighting for the establishment of democracy in our country had reached worrying proportions. Any action, any word “hostile to the regime,” either in public space or on social networks, the slightest protest movement, was violently repressed. The government seemed determined to silence these Congolese who were striving for change by all means.
It all started in 2011, when President Kabila, in power since 2001, was elected for a second term after a vote marred by massive fraud. The street was torn by violence immediately after the publication of the results. But the extremely violent repression that followed struck down the protests. The demonstrators, mostly young people, were quelled but didn’t give up. Patiently helped by the Congolese diaspora, galvanized by the Tunisians, Senegalese, Burkinabe “springs,” they created information and training networks for political activism. They set up exchange platforms. Their network grew across the country... in complete secrecy.
In January 2015, a little more than a year before the next presidential election, the authorities announced President Kabila’s desire to stay in power, despite the constitution’s interdiction. The streets burned. The repression, as strong as ever, failed to stop the protest. For the first time, the Congolese authorities were aware of the existence and magnitude of youth movements. They realized with dismay the threat that these groups mean for the power.
As soon as the tension in the streets calmed down, the government fought back. Youth structures were declared illegal. The leaders especially were described as terrorists on national television. They were systematically hunted down, kidnapped and put in jail. Those who managed to escape the manhunt had no choice but to flee the country or hide in the remotest villages.
Such was the fate of the young Congolese who aspired to democracy in the Congo at that time.
HONORING THE FIGHT
DR Congo looked like an open-air jail where the threat of a sudden disappearance hung like a sword of Damocles over all Congolese that aspired to make a change. Despite the pressure on the leaders, the “anti-3rd term” movement was not weakening. To many observers of the political scene of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2016 was going to be a year full of dangers.
Cameras from all around the world were about to come to our country to try and catch the announced chaos. I wanted to take my camera at the same time to film the men and women who would face it, those young people without a future who decided to fight in order to have one. I wanted to show their courage, pay tribute to them, and tell their stories.
In this country, there have always been men and women who stood up against injustice. Whether during the slavery era, the colonization, or the dictatorship, there were people who fought at the cost of their lives. But almost all of them have been forgotten.
As a filmmaker, I wanted to use the cinema to immortalize their fight for dignity, and freedom, their sacrifices for a “New Congo.” Thus, this film aims at being a work of memory. I want the next generations to remember those who are willing to do anything to regain mastery of their own destinies. I want to tell the story of those “ordinary heroes.”
“One day, the history of the Congo won’t be written in the United Nations, in Washington, Paris or Brussels but in the streets of Mbandaka, Kinshasa, Kisangani… It will be a story of glory and dignity (…)”