×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin: Director Bahango Hopes to Inspire Congolese Women to Pick Up Cameras

A young woman navigating the mean streets of Kinshasa learns tough lessons in survival in a Congolese helmer’s debut feature,“Maki’la,” which world premieres as part of the Berlinale’s Forum program.

Director Machérie Ekwa Bahango saw a personal challenge in the story of “Maki’la,” whose scrappy heroine was orphaned at the age of 13 and forced to fend for herself in Congo’s capital. While developing the script, Bahango says she tried to imagine herself in Maki’s shoes, determined not to shy away from the darker plot twists as she envisioned life on the street.

“During the production, it was difficult for me to watch,” says Bahango, as the camera traveled into a world where rape and violence against women are commonplace. Still, she says she felt compelled to depict the difficult circumstances facing Maki and her peers. “It’s a reality that I cannot hide.”

A few years ago, Bahango might have seemed an unlikely candidate to venture into the rough underbelly of Kinshasa. The 23 year old was studying law when she decided to teach herself the basics of cinema by watching videos online. Though few opportunities exist for young women behind the camera in Congo, she began working with other filmmakers and developing her own screenplays.

Her biggest break, though, came from Alain Gomis, when the Franco-Senegalese helmer arrived in Kinshasa to shoot his 2017 Berlinale Silver Bear-winner, “Felicité.” Bahango was brought onboard to serve as a translator, helping to bring the script to life in Lingala, her mother tongue.

The experience of working with one of the giants of contemporary African cinema amounted to priceless on-the-job training for the young helmer, who says that Gomis’ encouragement “really inspired me to make films.”

The seeds for “Maki’la” had already been planted when Bahango began meeting orphans on the streets of Kinshasa and encouraging them to share their stories. Though they’d been stigmatized by society, Bahango recognized that “they also have dreams, that they are living life like everyone else,” she says.

Bringing their lives to the screen wasn’t easy. Financing was a challenge — at one point, her father sold his car for the equivalent of $8,000 for Bahango to make her movie. The film had stalled in post-production when Alain Modot, of the International Distribution of Films and Fiction from Africa (known by its French acronym, Diffa), saw the movie’s poster on Facebook and got in touch with Bahango.

Modot traveled to Kinshasa to screen the footage and was impressed by the young director’s confidence. After showing the trailer to execs at Orange Studio in Paris, they decided to come onboard. Pic was produced by Congo’s Tosala Films, and co-produced by Orange Studio, Lennox, and Inzo Ya Bizizi. International sales are being handled by Diffa and Orange Studio.

Bahango is hopeful that her success so far will inspire other Congolese women hoping to find their way into the film industry. “I think that women artists in the Congo need help,” she says, “especially to discover themselves and know that they are capable of doing great things.”

More Film

  • Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller

    Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller 'Blackwing' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Voltage Pictures will produce and fully finance screenwriter David Loughery’s latest thriller “Blackwing,” Variety has learned exclusively. The company will introduce “Blackwing” to buyers at the upcoming European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival, which opens Feb. 7. Nicolas Chartier and Dominic Rustam are producing, and Jonathan Deckter is executive producing for Voltage Pictures. [...]

  • ‘Metro Exodus’ Opens Up Post-Apocalyptic Russia

    ‘Metro Exodus’ Author On Film, Possible TV Series, Expansive New Game

    Since the launch of the post-apocalyptic survival first-person shooter “Metro 2033” in 2010, the series has kept its action confined to the tunnels running underneath Russia. “Metro Exodus,” due out next month, takes the gameplay to the surface for the first time, going above ground with sprawling levels against a changing backdrop of weather conditions [...]

  • Berlin Film 'The Ground Beneath My

    Berlin Competition Film 'The Ground Beneath My Feet' Sold to Germany's Salzgeber (EXCLUSIVE)

    Salzgeber has acquired the German rights for Berlin Film Festival competition title “The Ground Beneath My Feet” from sales agent Picture Tree International. Variety has been given exclusive access to the film’s trailer. Salzgeber will release the film, directed by Marie Kreutzer, mid-May. Picture Tree describes the movie as a “contemporary female-led drama touching on [...]

  • Donald Glover'Atlanta' TV show premiere, Arrivals,

    Childish Gambino Surprises Beverly Hills Crowd With Reimagined 'Redbone'

    Donald Glover made an unexpected appearance at Film Independent’s “An Evening With…” series tonight (Jan. 15), held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and presented by the HFPA. Joining “Black Panther” composer and Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who was the subject of a Q&A conducted by “The Treatment” host Elvis [...]

  • 76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS --

    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Reitman has also co-written a [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content