Spling reviews President, Nemesis and Downstream to Kinshasa as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about three documentaries screening as part of the upcoming Encounters Documentary Film Festival.
Starting off with…
A behind-the-scenes exploration of Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections as an opposition front-runner contends with the powerful old guard.
Director: Camilla Nielsson
– Serving as an unofficial sequel to the film Democrats, President is taken from the inside perspective of Nelson Chamisa, the presidential candidate for the MDC Alliance ahead of Zimbabwe’s 2018 election.
– There was much hope and optimism following the military coup in which Robert Mugabe was dethroned.
– Succeeded by a man who served as his advisor for 37 years, it was naïve for anyone to think the political changeover and installation of another loyal ZANU-PF member would bring about mass reform.
– Testament to the party’s reputation, the events documented in President reinforce this suspicion as would-be martyr, Morgan Tshangavrai, succumbs to cancer just four months ahead of the national election.
– Spurred by the renewed hope for Zimbabwe, the groundswell of overwhelming support for the MDC Alliance makes it seem inevitable for a new political regime.
– Sticking to their headstrong, diplomatic and peaceful agenda, the MDC Alliance remain confident of a win for Chamisa ahead of Mnangagwa.
– Capturing the highs and lows of this potential turning point for Zimbabwe, President offers an intimate fly-on-the-wall portrait of a 40-year-old lawyer burdened with the nation’s hopes of a better tomorrow.
– Like a boxing match, we watch as the underdog rises up to take on the reigning champ, who’s clearly threatened and doing everything in his power to sabotage what must surely be destiny.
– In a year of worldwide political turmoil, a glimmer of hope for a tattered and weary Zimbabwe is thwarted by bullying, corruption and one-sided government agencies.
– Living vicariously through the MDC Alliance’s brave faces, this is an earnest, heartfelt and powerful documentary about dismantling absolute power.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
Moving on to…
A filmmaker witnesses the demolition of an old train station as a prison rises up in its place.
Director: Thomas Imbach
– Set against the refugee crisis, several testimonies are narrated in an effort to align their stories with the decision to demolish an old railway station that seemed set to stand forever.
– Shot over the course of several years from a perfectly positioned apartment just across from the historic railway station, we get a voyeuristic yet epic chronicle from demolition to grand opening.
– Sparsely scripted and leaning heavily on the cinematography and mood, this is a poetic, political and beautifully realised documentary that mesmerises you with its strange blend of observational happenings.
– Speeding up construction vehicles and trains, reversing footage, zooming into the destruction and filming visual artists, construction workers and civilians, we get to see it all unfold in an alienating and surreal way.
– Semi-biographical narration offers thought-provoking and contemplative subtext to what would ordinarily be deemed city planning and development.
– While a strangely intoxicating visual experience, augmented by the arrival of soulful acoustic music and otherworldly sound effects, it does run long at over two hours.
– Nemesis may be self-indulgent, but it’s also singular, offering an immersive, dreamlike state of reflection with a challenging afterthought.
– It’s exquisitely beautiful with a number of breathtaking moments as urban infrastructure, nature and visual technology resonate, but it’s equally frustrating by virtue of its slow-moving albeit important storytelling.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
DOWNSTREAM TO KINSHASA
Devastated by war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, several survivors trek to the capital to make their voices heard.
Writer-Director: Dieudo Hamadi
– It’s difficult to imagine the daily struggle of the Six-Day War survivors, who witnessed grisly atrocities, withstood mutilation… only to bury thousands.
– Struggling to come to terms with their new reality and disabilities, these civilians were victims of a war between two foreign states, in a devastating event that seems to have been forgotten.
– Grappling with self-worth, feeling the strain of their support structures and disillusioned by their government’s overt apathy, you can understand why they want to be heard, placing their hope on the promise of compensation.
– A crowded, wet and uncomfortable boat ride forms part of their quest as these brave civilians lead an impassioned charge for long overdue justice.
– Shedding light on the Six-Day War, this journey documentary is a character-driven portrait, offering a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the daily challenges for these resilient people.
– Interspersed with excerpts from a home-grown theatrical production, this cross-country expedition takes us to places of sorrow and surprising joy.
– While downtrodden, their fighting spirit and sense of humour keeps them strong, adaptive to the circumstances in the most amazing ways and compelled by their moral and political convictions.
– Downstream to Kinshasa is eye-opening, passionate, thought-provoking and inspiring, steadfast in its belief and constant in its hope, much like it’s courageous subjects.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
PRESIDENT… a powerful behind-the-scenes David vs. Goliath political documentary about absolute power, illusive democracy and the rot of corruption… An excellent 8!
NEMESIS… a mesmerisingly alienating, beautiful, haunting and voyeuristic ode to the impermanence of history and rising threat of national security… A solid 7!
DOWNSTREAM TO KINSHASA… an impassioned, inspiring and heartfelt fly-on-the-wall journey documentary about the endurance of hope and resilience of the human spirit… A solid 7!
For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!