The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.


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Director/Directrice, Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema | Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinéma

10 April 2018

“Maki'la” by/de Machérie Ekwa Bahango, a/un film noir by/par Hassouna Mansouri (analysis/analyse)

“Maki'la” by/de Machérie Ekwa Bahango, a/un film noir by/par Hassouna Mansouri 

A collaboration with, translated from French by Beti Ellerson. 

Maki'la by Machérie Ekwa Bahango is a genre film with aspects drawn from the streets of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These streets and the children who live in them, cut off from all family and social ties, are often the subject of a great deal of imagined reality; treated as sensationalised subjects, full of miserabilism and pity. The young Congolese filmmaker, who has just completed her very first feature film, constructs this subject matter into cinematographic material.

In the gangster movie genre where the hero is most often a man, Machérie Ekwa Bahango breaks with this rule from the very beginning. The hero is Maki, a young woman who fights as best she can to survive in the streets of Kinshasa. Married to Mbingazor, the leader of a gang of youth, she decides to set off on her own, finding neither satisfaction in the lifestyle of this group or in her relationship. Sent on her path by fate is Acha, another teenage girl lost in a soulless, unsparing Kinshasa. Their encounter is an important factor in the transformation of Maki's character, strengthened by a sense of responsibility. The group evolves outside of any interaction with society; guided by its own laws, like gangsters and mafia members in noir films. For instance, the wedding, used only as a model, is celebrated between friends by imitating/caricaturing the references of religious ritual. Similarly, each gang member is baptised according to a social stereotype.

At a certain moment, something clicks in Maki's mind, prompting her to no longer tolerate her companions' mode of existence: constant idleness, spending all their time smoking and drinking. There are subtle hints on the part of the director regarding the impasse and immobility that suffocate Congolese society. Maki’s awakening/revolt emerges as a call for crucial change. Confronted with a system stronger than her, what can the young woman do? The revolving scenes of conflict, at times in direct combat with Mbingazor, who dictates the law, are like metaphors for social confrontations between a people eager for change and an illegitimate oppressive power.

When finally a glimmer of hope emerges, the monstrous actions of Mbingazor are fatal both for himself and for Maki. At the end of a physical fight between the two characters, Acha kills Mbingazor with a bullet from a pistol that Maki had seized from a client, at the same moment she is stabbed. Before shooting herself in the head, she reveals to Acha that the man she had just killed is none other than the brother she has been looking for. Acha is lost now more than ever before. She loses Maki, the only support system in her life, and she herself has put an end to the personal and ultimate hope of finding her brother, her dream of finally reaching a haven of peace. The separation from him is twofold; having realised that she had just been raped by her own brother. Herein is a dour overview of Congolese society. With what means is Acha going to face the challenges during the rest of her life? The memory of this bloody scene ending with fratricide, the money that Maki brought back, and that could/should have taken them out of the circle of poverty and violence, perhaps a child from incest and rape. Acha, like Congolese society, was not able to get out of the vicious cycle. Through a muffled cry of anger in the form of a film noir Machérie Ekwa Bahango seems to reveal that the spiral of despair continues.
Maki'la de Machérie Ekwa Bahango, un film noir par Hassouna Mansouri

Maki'la de Machérie Ekwa Bahango est un film de genre avec des composantes locales puisées dans les rues de Kinshasa, la capitale de la République Démocratique du Congo. Ces rues et les enfants qui y vivent coupés de toutes attaches familiales et sociales sont l'objet de beaucoup de fantaisie. Ils sont souvent traités comme sujets sensationnels et souvent même teintés de misérabilisme et de pathétique. La toute jeune cinéaste congolaise, elle en est à son tout premier long métrage, en fait un matériau cinématographique.

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