Interview with Viva Riva! director Djo Munga and actor Hoji Fortuna

July 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

Director Djo Munga takes questions after the AFI screening

It’s a delicate dance that some new African film directors have to do when aiming for worldwide success with their films. By success I speak in terms of both critical acclaim and sales. This issue came to my mind when I attended a special screening of the Congolese movie Viva Riva! at the AFI theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland early last month. The movie opened in New York and LA on June 10th, and in the UK and DC on June 24th. It has already won a number of awards, most recently an MTV Movie Award for Best African Film. It trounced the competition at the African Movie Awards – it took 6 – and won Angolan actor Hoji Fortuna a best supporting actor award for his role as Angolan gangster Cesar in the film. Viva Riva! also won best feature Film at the 2011 Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles. It was during the question and answer session at the AFI with the film’s director Djo Munga that a woman in the audience took issue with the film’s scenes of sex and violence, that she felt would serve to reinforce stereotypical images of Africa. “And you’re putting this out for wide release,” she continued. The director is obviously used to such criticism. It took him seven years to make the movie, and in that time he was also able to co-produce a

Angolan actor Hoji Fortuna takes questions after Viva Riva's DC opening

documentary, Congo in Four Acts. Munga’s experience as a documentarian no doubt instructs his use of doc-style realism in this his first narrative feature. But Viva Riva! is also the first Congolese film made in their native Lingala language, and the first narrative feature film from the Congo since Ngangura Mweze’s La Vie Est Belle in 1987. We were able to chat with Djo Munga after the AFI screening, and we asked him about his exchange with the audience member, amongst other things. We also caught up with actor Hoji Fortuna after the movie’s DC opening at the E Street Cinema to get his take on the matter. If you do get to see Viva Riva! or have seen it already, let me know your thoughts. How can African film directors successfully maneuver the tight space between stereotype and reality? I certainly agree with something Djo Munga said: African filmmakers have to continue making films, no matter what the genre. Surely, “letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend” can only be good for the African film industry. What do you think? The full interviews with Djo Munga and Hoji Fortuna will be on soon. You can watch the film’s trailer here. Bless…

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