Alain Gomis’ 3rd feature film, “Tey” (or “Today” in English) received much coverage on this blog in 2012/2013, and made my list of top African Diaspora films to see the year of its initial release.
Via BelleMoon Productions, it enjoyed a limited theatrical run here in the USA in 2013, so I’m sure some of you got to eventually see it. It doesn’t appear to have been released on home video in the USA unfortunately, which is a surprise. But I’ll investigate and update when I know more.
The fantastical narrative, which stars Saul Williams and Aissa Maiga, follows a man named Satche (played by Williams) during the last 24 hours of his life.
Gomis’ next feature film, “Félicité,” has been selected as 1 of 14 films for the Competition and Berlinale Special section of the upcoming67th Berlin International Film Festival, which runs from February 9 – 19, 2017. The France/Senegal/Belgium/Germany/Lebanon co-production is set to make its world premiere at the festival.
It was shot in Kinshasa (DRC) and Senegal, and stars Véronique Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia and Mpaka Longi, in a story written by Gomis, Olivier Loustau and Delphine Zingg, that centers around a single mother named Félicité, a singer in Kinshasa living with Samo, her 16-year-old son, who is at risk of losing his leg from an accident, unless she can come up with the money to pay for the operation. His leg will be amputated otherwise, sending Félicité on a city-wide quest to raise the necessary funds.
Gomis spoke very briefly about the project in a 2015 interview, saying: “This is the story of a woman named Félicité, a singer in a folk group in Kinshasa. She lives alone with her son. One morning she learns from the hospital that he had an accident, he risks losing his leg, but Félicité cannot find the money for the operation. She embarks on a desperate search for the means. But when she almost reaches her goal, it’s too late, and the hospital amputates her son’s leg anyway. And her whole world collapses around her … The role is also played by a Congolese actress. [In coming up with the idea] I listened to the Kasai folk music on an album with a band called Kasai All Stars… bizarrely, I am surprised that the group is not very well known here in Congo… The voice of the singer, Mua Mbuyi, immediately sparked a character in my mind. What I find very beautiful in this music is that, it is traditional, that is to say, deeply rooted in tradition, and yet it is also extremely modern. There’s everything in it. It is music I find that brings together tradition and ultra-modernity.”
So I suppose we can assume that a dominant theme in “Félicité” will be the ongoing “battle” between tradition and modernity – a theme that has been, and still is popular among African filmmakers, reflecting internal (and external) struggles.
It’s Gomis’ 4th feature film in about 15 years; “Tey,” his last film, also premiered at Berlin in 2012, so he seems to have found a welcoming environment there to premiere his work.
“Félicité” is produced by Arnaud Dommerc for French production house Andolfi, with Granit Films (France), Cinekap (Senegal), Need Productions (Belgium) and Abbout Productions (Lebanon).
The film received support from the CNC’s Aid to World Cinema, the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), aid to rewriting from the Lower Normandy region, the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund, the Brot für die Welt, the Directorate General for Development (Belgium), the FOPICA of the Ministry of Culture of Senegal, and the Gabonese Institute of Image and Sound.
Director Gomis has premiered a first trailer (with English subtitles thankfully) for “Félicité” which is embedded below: