Kinshasa Symphony

Beautifully photographed and sonically stellar German docu.

Beautifully photographed and sonically stellar, German docu “Kinshasa Symphony” profiles the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, a 200-member outfit based in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Directors Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer vividly capture the joy and fatigue of eight key players, for whom the music — by Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, and Verdi — is a labor of love performed after gruelingly long day-job shifts. Electricity may be spotty in Kinshasa, but the pic itself is a fully charged ode to the power of music in a region ravaged by war and poverty. Global fest appeal appears assured.

That one of the interviewed musicians claims to hear African rhythms in Beethoven is perfectly in keeping with the pic’s bid to dispel astonishment at the notion of a Congolese symphony orchestra with a full choir singing German. Though the group has replaced violin strings with bicycle brake cables and continues to build even double bass instruments from scratch, its materials are as sound as its intention to spread classical music through Kinshasa. The docu, whose tech credits sing, builds to the group’s triumphant performance of Beethoven’s Ninth for cheering hordes.

Kinshasa Symphony


  • Production: A Sounding Images production, in co-production with WDR and RBB. Produced by Stefan Pannen, Holger Preusse. Directed by Claus Wischmann, Martin Baer. Written by Wischmann.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Baer; editor, Peter Klum; music, Jan Tilman Schade, Vladimir Miller, Benoit Ziegler. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Africa Today), Oct. 9, 2010. Running time: 95 MIN.
  • With: With: The Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste. (French dialogue)