Maki'la by MachÃ©rie Ekwa Bahango is a genre film with aspects drawn from the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These streets and the children who live in them, cut off from all family and social ties, are often the subject of a great deal of imagined reality; treated as sensationalised subjects, full of miserabilism and pity. The young Congolese filmmaker, who has just completed her very first feature film, constructs this subject matter into cinematographic material.
In the gangster movie genre where the hero is most often a man, MachÃ©rie Ekwa Bahango breaks with this rule from the very beginning. The hero is Maki, a young woman who fights as best she can to survive in the streets of Kinshasa. Married to Mbingazor, the leader of a gang of youth, she decides to set off on her own, finding neither satisfaction in the lifestyle of this group or in her relationship. Sent on her path by fate is Acha, another teenage girl lost in a soulless, unsparing Kinshasa. Their encounter is an important factor in the transformation of Maki's character, strengthened by a sense of responsibility. The group evolves outside of any interaction with society; guided by its own laws, like gangsters and mafia members in noir films. For instance, the wedding, used only as a model, is celebrated between friends by imitating/caricaturing the references of religious ritual. Similarly, each gang member is baptised according to a social stereotype.
At a certain moment, something clicks in Maki's mind, prompting her to no longer tolerate her companions' mode of existence: constant idleness, spending all their time smoking and drinking. There are subtle hints on the part of the director regarding the impasse and immobility that suffocate Congolese society. Maki's awakening/revolt emerges as a call for crucial change. Confronted with a system stronger than her, what can the young woman do? The revolving scenes of conflict, at times in direct combat with Mbingazor, who dictates the law, are like metaphors for social confrontations between a people eager for change and an illegitimate oppressive power.
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by Hassouna Mansouri
A Special Report
translated from French by Beti Ellerson.
A collaboration with African Women in Cinema (Beti Ellerson)
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