(director/writer: Alain Gomis; screenwriters: Delphine Zingg /Olivier Loustau; cinematographer: Céline Bozon; editors: Alain Gomis, Fabrice Rouaud; music: Kasai Allstars; cast: Véro Tshanda Beya (Félicité), Papi Mpaka (Tabu), Gaetan Claudia (Samo), Nadine Ndebo (Hortense),Modero Totokani (Pere Samo), Bavon Diana (Le Boss), Leon Makola (Patron at bar), Sylvie Kandala (Femme cour), Nathan Malumba (Bandit); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Arnaud Dommerc, Oumar Sall, Alain Gomis; Strand Releasing/Granit Films; 2017-France/Belgium/Senegal/Germant/Lebanon-in French & Lingala with English subtitles)

Everyone may agree on how artful and powerful it is as a human condition study, but not on how entertaining it is.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A vibrant African musical blends into a thrilling streetwise social drama about a bar singer and single mother named Félicité (Véro Tshanda Beya-Congolese singer turned actress in her screen debut), in Kinshasa, capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who desperately tries to raise her son against all odds. When tragedy hits, it’s a race against time for her to raise 700,000 Congolese dollars to pay for her teenage son Samo’s (Gaetan Claudia) operation to save his leg following a motorbike accident. Sneered at by family and friends, the desperate Afropop singer barges uninvited into the gated homes of Kinshasa’s wealthy citizens, asking for money before the help on orders drag her off the grounds. One such scene turns disturbingly violent. We also witness her blossoming involvement with Tabu (Papi Mpaka), a rowdy but cunning night-club patron she befriends. Her songs offer relief for this over two hour pain-soaked film filled with misery, until even her songs can no longer make us forget her woeful plight. It’s directed in an unsentimental way by the Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis (“Today”/”L’afrance”) and is co-written by him, Delphine ZinggandOlivier Loustau. It’s amazing to watch Véro Tshanda Beya sing with the storied Kasai Allstars such trance-like songs as “Congotronic.” But the second half becomes, perhaps, too much of a downer to endure, even if Beya’s complex character study is performed so well. Everyone may agree on how artful and powerful it is as a human condition study, but not on how entertaining it is. What it strongly suggests is how fragile life is in the Congo for both the people and country.

REVIEWED ON 3/15/2018 GRADE: B+  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/