Juju Factory

By Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda

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Juju Factory is a meditation in accordance with Balafu Bakupa-Kanyinda’s now well-identified obsessions and style: Africa’s relation to power and creation. A writer confronts his publisher who wants him to follow the commercial paths to give an account of reality in the district of Matonge, Congolese enclave in Brussels, th only European city area to have an African name, a district of Kinshasa.
Deliberately anchored in fiction (« In my head, imagination makes love to reality »), the film dares to veer into documentary reporting to catch the echoes of the inhabitants talking about their neighborhood: « To each street its own people », one of them says. He does his best to break the globalizing image of a mythical Africa.
This writer, admirably played by Dieudonné Kabongo, isn’t called Congo Kongo by accident: his name carries the specificity of a culture and has the rhythm of rumba. Around him, a constellation of characters offer an array of positions, of the different « truths » of the neighborhood that interact with his own story of exile. His typerwriter documents the confrontations between the youth and the police, which makes his publisher say that « inspiration is in love with you ». It reminds us of the Senegalese N’doep which claims that the spirit is too in love with the individual, so much so that it causes his/her disorder, that this possession-base therapy tries to treat: that’s where Balufu stands, in the place of an artist who owes it to himself to talk in the first person, tortured as he is as much by reality as by the projections on Black people and his acute awareness of the state of Africa.
The publisher (named Joseph Désiré, I say!) represents this Africa; he can’t find the time to read his own wife’s tales, he dreams of whities playing djembes in his head, tortures his writers and knows better than them what the public expects. « I know you don’t like this title, but I’m the one who’s paying » »: he is a true dictator, this Joseph Désiré, and sharply turns the President of the Association for Helping Africa away. The shadow of Mobutu and of a people who « danced, sang and glorified him » hovers while Lumumba’s specter roams in the night of Matonge. Should we keep holding on to myths? For these people live in Matonge in the name of their colonial History but this History haunts them, for they participated in it. Indeed, Matonge started in the tombs of the colonial expositions of the museum of Tervuren but it is « His Highness » Leopold II whom Joseph Désiré goes to consult about his disagreement with Kongo the writer. Double movement: to be part of it or not to be part of it, schizophrenic split, both victim and torturer.
Everyone has a monster inside of him; how do you protect yourself? The publisher dreams he’s a politician; husbands cheat on their wives. Poetry is unsaleable; yet, you have to position the imagination as the subject so that that rapped discourse becomes a blade. « As long as the lion won’t be able to tell, all hunting tales will be to the glory of the hunter »: to start by taking charge of one’s own history. And to do it while believing in the human being: « You are a man because the other is », Kongo writes in his notebook. Everything mixes because everything is linked, everything is contradictory: politics and the intimate, both universal and specific, an evil duality that feeds itself mutually. The wealth of ideas, the humour, a deliberately crazy camera and tight interwoven editing, voluntarist dialogue and roaming at night… Juju Factory is a factory for manifestos, a Soleil Ô-type cry in which Le Damier would have spawn its offspring. Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda seems to be looking for the life-saving juju, this talisman supposed to protect us from monsters and which must be hiding somewhere out there, in the culture reread in the light of the present. It’s for the tortured artists to take action, in the colorlessness of their interior exile, listening to their exile as immigrants or victims of exclusion. It’s that crazy Balufu’s pleasure to put us on track with this rich, diverse, operatic, scathing and torn film.

Translated by Céline Dewaele.///Article N° : 5971

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