National Geographic Entertainment has acquired North American distribution rights to the docu “Benda Bilili!” and plans a fall release through National Geographic Cinema Ventures.
Film, centered on a group of street musicians in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors Fortnight last year. It was a best doc nominee for the Cesar Awards and will screen at South by Southwest this week.
The band Staff Benda Bilili (thename translates as “look beyond”) is composed of four paraplegics and three able-bodied men who play their music on homemade instruments. French film directors Florent de la Tullaye and Renaud Barret discovered the group in 2004 and began documenting the band’s struggles to survive.
“‘Benda Bilili!’ is not just a story about a group of musicians who overcome incredible obstacles to bring their music to the world,” said Daniel Battsek, president of National Geographic Films, in a statement. “It’s about perseverance, passion and the human spirit, qualities we look for in any story National Geographic tells, be it in print or on the silver screen.”
Producers are Yves Chanvillard and Nadim Cheikhrouha of Screenrunner and de la Tullaye and Barret of La Belle Kinoise. Co-producers are O.L. Production and Studio 37.
Other upcoming releases from NGE include “The First Grader,” “Life in a Day,” and “Desert Flower,” with the last set to be released March 18.