Last week the Congolese film “Viva Riva” won “The Best African Movie“* award at the MTV Movie Awards. That’s the kind of publicity African films can’t buy and should count for something when the film opens in New York City, Los Angeles and Portland (OR) this weekend. (It is calculated that foreign films make up 2% of screens in US cinemas and African films only make up a small percentage of that total.) Set in Kinshasa, “Viva Riva” tells the story of “Riva … a small time operator who has just returned to his hometown of Kinshasa, Congo after a decade away with a major score: a fortune in hijacked gasoline.” Riva is trailed by an Angolan crime lord (whose gasoline he stole) and complicates matters for himself by falling for the girlfriend of a local gangster. This is not high-minded French funded “cinema.” It is a gangster movie. The PR describes the Kinshasa of the film as “… a seductively vibrant, lawless, fuel-starved sprawl of shantytowns, gated villas, bordellos and nightclubs and Riva is its perfect embodiment.” Advance publicity also emphasizes the explicit nudity and violence in “Viva Riva.”

Above is the trailer and here, here, here¬†and here are interviews with the director Djo Tunda Wa Munga. And here and here are early mainstream (US) reviews. And here’s the details on where it is playing in the US. See also the film’s official site.

* The other finalists for the award were “A Screaming Man” (Chad), “Life, Above All” (South Africa) and “Restless City” (Nigeria).