STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $9.99
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

The Pitch

It’s African crime noir at its best…and freakiest.

The Humans

Director: Djo Tunda Wa Munga, Patsha Bay, Manie Malone, Hoji Fortuna, Marlene Longange, Diplome Amekindra, Alex Herabo, Angelique Mbumb, Nzita Tumba, Romain Ndomba, Tomas Bie

The Nutshell

A former small-time Congolese criminal, Riva (Bay), returns to Kinshasa after ten years in Angola with a big score of an ill-gotten truckload of gasoline from his former Angolan crime boss, Cesar (Fortuna).  With the city starving for petrol, Riva is now flush with cash and determined to live it up by partying, boozing and whoring.  He especially has his eye on one of Kinshasa’s true jewels, the moll of Azor (Amekindra), a local crime boss, named Nora (Malone).  Initially cool to Riva’s continual advances, Nora eventually begins a passionate relationship with him, despite the danger it poses.  But Riva has bigger concerns in the form of Cesar and his men, who blow into town and commandeer the services of a local cop (Longange).  Cesar is dead set on finding his truckload of gas and skinning Riva alive for crossing him, and he has no problem taking out a few locals in the process.

The Lowdown

I was a champion of this film earlier this year when I saw it.  You can check out my full review here.  I also had the opportunity to interview the film’s director, Djo Tunda Wa Munga (here).  The guy was smart, knowledgeable about film and his movie is slick, brutal, bloody, hedonistic and paints an unwavering look at the Congo underworld.  It’s a crime noir – and a great one – that happens to take place in Africa, specifically Kinshasa, and delivers a stark portrayal of the seediness of the city.  While the story would work in more familiar environs like Hong Kong or New York or Paris, there are elements of it that are uniquely Congolese, from a native son who presents the city like an outsider simply couldn’t.  You can check out the trailer here.

Munga has populated the great characters and an engaging story that’s ensconced in the flavor of the city.  Viva Riva! picked up several African film awards and Munga has the mission to try to revitalize the Congolese film industry, which has suffered from constant war and hasn’t had a significant release in some 20 years.  Munga is a self-professed fan of directors like Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone, and he’s used a lot of local talent to help bring his visceral story to life, particularly Patsha Bay, Hoji Fortuna and Marlene Longange.  And actress Manie Malone, of the Ivory Coast, is a Gal of whom you need to take note.

I’ve caught a lot of good independent films this year, and this was one of the best.

The Package

The video for the most part looks good, except for some artifacting in some dark scenes.  Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is good.  The film is in Lingala and French, with available English subtitles.  There’s an almost eight-minute long interview with Munga, obviously from some junket.  Munga also included a short film of his called Papy , which runs a little over 53 minutes.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars