Despite the number of years living and working as a wildlife cameraman in Europe, Vianet D’jenguet always carried fond childhood memories of the Congo wherever he traveled. In his job, D’jenguet filmed in many locations across continental Africa, but never in his homeland. “My Congo” represents his first opportunity to film in his native country and to be in front of the camera as he takes viewers to his favorite places to witness the diversity of landscapes and people.
In this first-person account, D’jenguet visits sites that evoke happy family memories, and makes his way through remote terrain in search of his roots. More than 20 years after his physician father, a malaria specialist, moved the family to Paris to treat students and diplomats, D’jenguet begins his homecoming in the capital city of Brazzaville where he was born. As he tours the city’s bustling streets, the sights and sounds remind him of his childhood.
He ventures into the countryside where the wildlife cameraman shows viewers many of his favorite spots. He starts on the coast at Point Noire where his family often spent vacations and then travels to Tchimpounga, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in all of Africa.
Heading north, D’jenguet films all kinds of birds, such as huge Palm Nut vultures, swallows, kingfishers, manakins, and Pin-tailed whydah birds which resemble little peacocks.
An eight-hour hike through the wild equatorial rainforest of D’jenguet’s ancestors holds an unexpected surprise for the native son when he meets up with some of the last, indigenous Forest People. He discovers a deeper family connection to his homeland – that D’jenguet’s great-grandfather Sokondi still is deeply revered by the tribe as their protector. He shows how they use traditional techniques to get everything they need from the forest.
Continuing through the rainforest with camera and tripod in tow, D’jenguet heads by river to what he describes as “the best place to see wildlife in the whole of Africa.” It is a clearing called Mbeli Bai in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park where there are endless sightings of forest elephants, Western Lowland gorillas, forest buffalo, and sitatungas or swamp antelopes. It’s here that D’jenguet ends his journey having learned more about himself, his country, and why he became a wildlife cameraman in the first place.
“My Congo” premiered last night, Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS; and it is now available online to stream for free, although for a limited time. So take advantage of the opportunity if interested.
Watch the full hour-long program below: