Sometimes I feel we’re falling into a modern life that’s losing touch with the bigger issues in the world around us, enveloping ourselves into social media meltdowns and technological distractions. And while it’s true that our own lives are important, This Is Congo is an absolute must-watch in terms of both awareness and importance.
Congo is one of those countries you’ve possibly heard about on the news, or have some distant awareness about. As recently as the beginning of May 2018, two tourists were kidnapped from the Virunga National Park but were miraculously released without being killed, even after their captors didn’t get what they wanted. This is unusual. The Democratic Republic of Congo is desperately tangled in seemingly endless webs of distrust, military/dictatorial rule and civil war. This documentary, This Is Congo, is a tough watch but for anyone who thinks they don’t have freedom of speech, or a day-to-day existence that moves from waking up safe and going to an everyday job, then this will open up that shell.
The film, by director Daniel McCabe, is an unfiltered insight into the lives of 3 people trying to survive in the conflict around them. But this isn’t just as straight-forward as following three lives because all of them couldn’t be further apart in the chaos of their country, with each taking very different paths and particular outcomes.
Although we do follow two citizens with unique stories, that of Mama Romance [pictured below], a single mother who illegally smuggles and trades in gemstones across her countries border. There’s also Hakiza Nyantaba, a refugee and tailor who takes his sewing machine wherever they have to, he tells us how he has fled his home numerous times due to the constant, incoming war around him but it is primarily the story of Colonel Mamadou Ndala that takes centre stage.
Chiefly known as Mamadou, his popularity isn’t just because of his strength as a leader, but he’s also famous because he led the defence of Goma from the M23 rebels, for the National Army, and so is hailed as a hero. Interestingly though, he never takes personal credit for the victories, mainly because he can’t, but it’s also clear he’s dedicated and respected because of this. He’s been fighting endless rebel factions for years and it has made him a war icon.
McCabe’s film also gives us a delve into the history of the DR Congo, from the Arabs taking the country and its people into slavery, onto the Belgian King, Leopold the II, who gave the impression he was saving the country from slavery but instead brutally colonised their people and used their rich wealth in minerals for his own gain. When you consider the last 100 years, or so, has been other countries taking advantage of Congo, you can begin to comprehend (and at least reflect) why it’s in such chaos today.
This Is Congo can’t really be summed up by me in a short review such as this because it could be discussed for hours. The tremendously heavy raw war footage, constantly reminds us that death is, quite literally, just down the road. It’s so complex and saddening. It’s people have nowhere to go because how can you settle anywhere if there’s always a war, and they never really know who’s fighting for who, when everyone changes sides so frequently.
A must-watch but prepare yourself for true intensity and real, brutal reality throughout.