Yesterday and Tomorrow

Tom DeVriendt
“Lobi” is a Lingala word meaning both ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’. Nine young film makers/artists* looked into this yesterday and tomorrow. Drowned in much noise Congo’s Cinquantenaire celebrations passed as fast as they came. In Lobi (hier/demain) the film makers also look at these celebrations – sideways. Convinced that a “direct dialogue” is long-overdue and time has come to find a common language allowing them to both tackle a shared past and create a new imaginary of the future, the nine film makers produced a poetic and enigmatic movie. The result of an intensive collaboration during the months of February-March 2010, the movie’s coarse images slowly but surely pull you in.

One of the makers, Matthias, explains:

The initiative to make LOBI follows on a previous collaboration with the same artists in 2006. Back then, Kristin and I were residents at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa. Our stay led to a collaboration with local students/artists resulting in the production of various (short) video pieces under the header “ôtre k’ôtre” (read: other than other). During this process we befriended the Congolese participants. These film makers all are (ex-)students at the Académie in Kinshasa, gathered in two collectives: Mungongo Ya Sika and Noyau. Not only are they active in the visual arts but also in the performance arts, theatre, TV, etc. Eric and Rek create series for the TV-station Horizon 33 and write, play and direct theatre plays. Kams, Tocha, Mekhar, Amourabinto and Androa are members from Noyau. All have a different artistic practice (Androa mostly focussing on performance, also internationally; Kams working with ‘métal battu’; Mekhar working on sculptures and performances…).

The plan to continue this collaboration and to make a movie was a joint idea. We suggested a period and they agreed. Our proposition didn’t include more than a date and a medium (super8): we’d make the movie together, the content remained to be determined. It was obvious that the celebration of the independence would inspire the creation of the movie: daily life was awash with it. Hence the need to do something with this.

By ‘direct dialogue’ we mean, in the first place, quite literally, a dialogue. The making of the movie was preceded by a month of preparation, mostly sitting around the table (all nine of us) and discussing. We found it important for the movie to grow out of a conversation between the makers – hopefully reflected in the movie – which is a different style from the one used in some contemporary documentaries about Congo where Congolese people speak in front of the camera and a westerner offers his or her comments: two monologues speaking next to each other. During the drawing up of the scenario everybody put their ideas on the table and scenes were being discussed in group, connected to other scenes, modified…

But by ‘direct’ we also and foremost mean the avoidance of the indirect, that is: a dialogue fraught by power relationships, presumptions or prejudices, shame or an absolute relativism. ‘Direct’ as in “ôtre k’ôtre”, other than other (to see one another as more than a pure alterity, to look for a common ground to communicate), which is different from ‘the same’. Directness is never without a distance, it points to a direction and that direction is defined by the collective.

The medium itself, super8, confronted us with a challenge. It doesn’t register sounds so we were forced to choose images that were strong enough to function without sound or to be dependent on non-synchronous sounds. The sound was thus created separately from the images. This relation can vary from being counter-pointing to being illustrative. Besides the music and the radio recordings, the movie is silent, which ensures an alienating effect, but also strengthens the possibility – or, so we hope – for the imaginary to function more powerfully (imagining the sound of a slap in the face is different from actually hearing the sound of a slap). During the preparation we worked a lot on off-screen dialogues, but in the end we decided not to use them, precisely for this reason.

Some months ago, the movie was privately premiered in Kinshasa at the same moment we launched it in Antwerp. For it to be shown publicly in Congo they’ll have to pass it via the censor board and this turns out to take a while. They are investigating the possibility to distribute it through street vendors in Kinshasa – so we supplied them with a heap of unprotected DVD’s.”

Recommended. If you can get your hands on a copy.

* Pierre Kigoma, Mekhar Azari, Tocha Zaventen, Amourabinto Lukoji, Rek Kandol, Eric Biansueki, Androa Mindre, Kristin Rogghe & Matthias De Groof.

Further Reading