french films > Benda Bilili!

Benda Bilili!

Benda Bilili!

Benda Bilili!

Review score: * * * * *

cast: Roger Landu, Coco Ngambali, Djunana Tanga-Suele

year: 2010

colour: yes

certificate: PG

director: Renaud Barret, Florent de La Tullaye

runtime: 85

The mesmerising music of Staff Benda Bilili and the band’s extraordinary story have been making a strong impression worldwide. A group of paraplegic street musicians who live in and around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, one can hear raw power, fragile delicacy and incredible beauty in their music: the eternal pulse of Congolese rumba combined with voices that conjure the crooners of Havana, the toasters of Kingston and even the Godfather Of Soul himself.

The core of the group consists of four seasoned singer/guitarists perched on spectacular customized tricycles, occasionally dancing on the floor of the stage, arms raised in joyful supplication. Behind them is a young and entirely acoustic rhythm section, and to top it all there are the weird, infectious guitar-like solos of Roger, a teenage prodigy who plays a one-string electric lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can.

Staff Benda Bilili consider themselves as the real journalists of Kinshasa, as their songs document and comment events of everyday life. One of their key messages is: the only real handicaps are not in the body but in the mind.  Benda Bilili means “look beyond appearances” – literally, put forward what is hidden.

This extraordinary group was encountered in 2005 by Florent de La Tullaye and Renaud Barret, two young French filmmakers who were shooting a series of films on the many musicians and other amazing figures living and working in the urban jungle of Kinshasa. They were blown away by Staff Benda Bilili, and decided to devote an entire feature film to the band. They also introduced the band to Crammed Discs, who signed the group, produced the album and released it to the world.   The rest is, in World Music arenas, history!  In Europe for the second time, the film is a rare opportunity to share in the infectious music of these irrepresible human beings.



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