Florent de La Tullaye & Renaut Barret, The Democratic Republic Of Congo / France, 2010, 85'
Ricky dreams of making the Staff Benda Bilili the best band in Kinshasa. The musicians - four of them paralysed in both legs by polio – trundle up and down the streets in their customised ‘Mad Max’ wheelchairs. They are the stars of the ghetto with whom Roger, a street urchin playing on a qatongé (an empty food can with neck and one string) would like to join in. They try to survive in the city jungle by singing and dancing. Poverty and misery may shape their lives, but they refuse to let those determine their destiny.
The documentary makers followed the group for five years: from the first rehearsal, the recordings of their first album Très Très Fort in the zoo (!) of Kinshasa, right through to a successful world tour along various music festivals. With their home-made instruments, vibrant vocals and swinging music - an infectious mix of blues, funk, reggae, soukous and rumba congolaise - they provide an incredibly inspiring stage act. Benda Bilili, freely translated as ‘beyond appearances’, is an appeal to look beyond the misery of Congo, an inspiring portrait full of the joys of life and hope.