By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
So, what’s the largest film industry in the world, in terms of number of annual productions? If you guessedIndiaand Bollywood over theU.S.congrats, you’re a pretty sharp cookie. Okay, so who’s #2? Nigeria? How the hell did you know that? Witch! Witch!
You can’t commit sorcery… underwater!
Okay, so the overlong and underfunny point here is that Central African cinema is a booming business that’s received little to no exposure elsewhere, although as production values and experience levels behind and in front of the camera increase that figures to change. Viva Riva is actually a relatively rare Congolese film, but it offers a tantalizing look at what the future may have in store for the film industry of the region.
Its story follows the charismatic Riva, who’s just returned to Kinshasa with a valuable truckload of scarce gasoline, stolen form his ruthless Angolan boss, Cesar. As Cesar leaves a swath of destruction behind him as hunts Riva down, and a wide array of players try to get in on the gasoline action, our protagonist sets his sights on Nora, who just happens to be the girlfriend of Kinsasha’s biggest crimelord.
Director Djo Tunda Wa Munga displays a masterful touch with using his resources. On a miniscule budget he creates a crime thriller that stacks up against most of itsHollywoodbrethren in the looks department and may outpace them in content. He’s helped by the exotic, unknown to most world of Kinsasha, and he takes full advantage, immersing the film in its environment and taking us everywhere from tiny roadside food stands to swank nightclubs.
The story is nothing to sneeze at either, as he tweaks gangster movie trope to weave no intricate web of corruption entangling just about everyone in the city, where graft is simply the flattest of tax rates.
The acting ranges from solid, to particularly Patsha Bay (Riva)’s case, pretty damn good. He does a great job man who just doesn’t give a fuck anymore, and who’s now out to get his however possible.
His character’s also a bit of a creep. It keeps cropping up in odd places, and when it does a fortifying nip isn’t the worst idea. Particularly bad is a scene where he turns out getting caught watching a girl pee into a romantic entrée. Man, if that’s all it took…
Then I guess I can put 20 years of pimping experience on my resume
So, it’s damned impressive what Munga accomplishes with his limited resources, and it’s probably unfair to penalize him when his ambition outstrips his budget, but sometimes it really, really does.
Which seems to be a recurring theme in African cinema
This gem of a crime thriller has some great ideas and a fascinating setting. Somebody give Djo Tunda Wa Munga a real budget!
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: any time anyone gets laid
Take a Drink: any time gas or oil is mentioned or shown
Drink a Shot: every time Riva clearly doesn’t give a fuck