Félicité review – musical, magnetic portrait of Kinshasa life

Bar singer and single mother Félicité struggles to raise money to help her son in Alain Gomis’s streetwise story

At times, it seems that violence is not just near the surface, it is the surface of life in Kinshasa, capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But director Alain Gomis softens the streetwise grit of this portrait of a self-sufficient single mother, bar singer Félicité (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu), who must raise money for her gravely injured teenage son. The life force of the city, as Gomis tells it, is music: the bumpy, trancelike drive of Congotronic dance; the plaintive refrain of an orchestra that rehearses in a strip-lit shed.

Music is ubiquitous, accompanying Félicité’s desperate cross-town dash. It also provides the film’s most powerful moment – a woozy, boozed-up opening sequence in which Félicité gradually weaves her magic over a rowdy crowd. It’s overlong, certainly, and the story loses power when it shifts from the quest for cash to a cautious relationship between Félicité and her singularly unimpressive suitor, Tabu. But this heady trip into downtown Kinshasa is as magnetic, and enigmatic, as its forceful central character.

Watch a trailer for Félicité.

Contributor

Wendy Ide

The GuardianTramp

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