DVD Review - Félicité (Black History Month)
Of all the African countries with predominant black populations, most of their film submissions are not nominated. It's not as if black films from Africa don't get recognized. The first such was Black and White in Color (1977) from the Ivory Coast at the 49th Academy Awards. The most recent was Timbuktu (2015) from Mauritania at the 87th Academy Awards, which was only the third, African film nominated.
Of the two, African films that made the shortlist this year, the one I preferred was The Wound (Inxeba), which was submitted by South Africa. The second, African film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, which like the Ivory Coast film also won, was Tsotsi (2006) at the 78th
Academy Awards. Because of that fact, I thought The Wound (Inxeba) had a good chance, but, in the wake of #MeToo and the Time's Up Movement, this film from Senegal about a female, African singer also had a good chance. Like Mozambique, this film from Senegal also represents the first ever from that West African nation, despite the film not actually being set in Senegal.
Written and directed by Alain Gomis, the movie is at its best when it's about Félicité, the desperate mother who doesn't collapse or cower but goes to whatever lengths to get the money for her son's surgery, which at one point requires her literally to collapse to the floor. The film though brilliantly exposes the problems in the health system in the DRC, particularly in how it's regulated or financed. Félicité has to pay in cash for what would be a major surgery. The sterility and security are supremely lacking as well, as her son is housed in what looks like a crumbling and dirty building.
Gomis' film also exposes a little bit of the culture of Kinshasa, particularly the night life, and it is somewhat fascinating to watch. Félicité sings at her bar regularly and Gomis shows some of those musical performances. Mputu is dubbed, I believe. The voice and music are provided by the Kasai Allstars. Their music is incredible and quite simply joyous, which is appropriate considering the translation of Félicité's name is "our joy."
Gaetan Claudia also co-stars as Samo, the teenage son of Félicité. He's mute for his entire time in this film. He doesn't speak a word, which is interesting, but it doesn't yield much insight into Samo as a person. He's basically a glorified MacGuffin. The last third of the movie alleviates that somewhat, but it's not enough to satisfy what his relationship to his mom was like or who he is.
Not Rated but contains brief nudity, some violence and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 4 mins.