On the 26th October 2011, Congolese film ‘Viva Riva’ written & directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga, was being showed at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG, with I and another team member from FAB watching it for review.

 

Riva (Patsha Bay Mukuna) is a small time operator who has just returned to his hometown of Kinshasa after a ten year absence, Congo with a major score: a fortune in hijacked petrol. With bundles of cash and all out for a good time Riva meets up with his friend J.M. (Alex Herabo) and hits the town. Riva is soon entranced by pretty nightclub siren, Nora (Mannie Malone), the woman of a local gangster, Azor (Diplome Amekindra). Into the mix comes Riva’s Angolan crime lord ex-boss relentlessly seeking the return of a certain stolen shipment of gasoline.

 

 

As soon as we are introduced to Riva’s character, we sense trouble; he comes across as a ‘bad boy’ who is living the life that every Kinshasan man dreams of having. Riva is the king for a rollicking good night – and keeps that night going on and on, scoffing at the plain truth that during daylight he is a nobody.

 

Things take a turn for the worse when the owners of the stolen gas show up, led by César (Hoji Fortuna). They force the hand of a local military commander (Marlene Longange) to help them track down Riva and get their stolen products back. Having already annoyed Azor, Riva finds himself surrounded from different angles by people who are out to get him. The performances by Fortuna, Longange, and Amekindra effectively illustrate how dangerous each of the criminals chasing Riva really are, highlighting and heightening Riva’s carefree attitude. Although Riva certainly has his share of tricks up his sleeve, there’s always the sense that he’s throwing attention to the wind.

 

The only major problem with Viva Riva is that, although Riva is a fun and exciting character, he doesn’t exactly gain the sympathy of the audience. A few scenes try to flesh out his backstory, especially a sequence near the end where he finds himself at his parents’ house, but by then, it’s too late for Tunda to try and deepen him.  Every child dreams about helping his or her parents, but in Riva’s case his parents prefer to scream and throw his money in his face. Riva’s parents had every right to treat him the way they did, I mean you just don’t disappear for ten years, expecting everyone to buy you flowers.

 

In all the ways that Nora is a character with visible factors pushing and pulling her decisions and attitude, Riva falls a bit short. Since his appeal is built somewhat on mystery, it’s a struggle to fill him in, and adding in the fact that his situation is almost entirely a result of his own audacity, it’s even harder to take his side.

 

I loved how the city and club life were portrayed, it just seemed so real and I could almost visualise certain things in my mind e.g the food, sandy floors, traffic, bribery  etc. But for over twenty years now, Kinshasan’s have lived in bedlam, through every kind of spirit-crushing experience imaginable – war, crime, corruption, food and energy shortages, poverty and the breakup of the family structure, yet their clocks keep on ticking, and life goes on.

 

In ‘Viva Riva’ most of the women are seen as prostitutes, lesbians or thief’s, for example; the military commander kissing the prostitute, and Nora making love with Riva, but then setting him up so that she can run away with his money. It just seemed like they had either come from lower classed families or troubled backgrounds, which is why they behaved the way they did.  It was so sad to watch.

 

I didn’t like how Riva’s character was killed off at the end, but loved the twist to it because you know, in most movies the ‘hero’ is suppose to survive and save everybody, but in the movie everybody dies (very good plot). Kinshasa is set as seductively vibrant, lawless, fuel-starved sprawl of shantytowns, gated villas, bordellos and nightclubs and Riva is its perfect example.

 

And whatever happened to Nora’s character? We know that Riva had given her money to go and see her father, someone who she doesn’t have a smooth relationship with, but soon after, she vanishes halfway through the movie and is not seen again. It would have been nice to see her story unfold into a fairy-tale, especally as I was anxious to find out whether she was going to re-appear again and live happily ever after with Riva, but no, she didnt.

 

The ending of the film is very significant, with two meanings to it. Firstly you see the little boy finding Riva’s money in the truck, which all of the characters had greedily been fighting for. So after watching the film I concluded; “what you sow you shall reap” (the little boy helping Riva quite a few times) and because we as humans came with nothing on this earth, so whall we leave with nothing (all of the characters fighting over wealth).  There was also a cliff hanger attached to it because I kept asking myself rhetorical questions like ‘will the little boy take the money?’ ‘Will he leave it?’ will he go and save it for his future?’ or ‘will he turn out like Riva and live a
reckless life?’

 

‘Viva Riva’ which contained strong sexuality, graphic nudity, brutal violence, explicit language and some drug is definitely a film for those who are interested in culture and history.

 

 

 

Nora (Manie Malone)

 

 

 

César (Hoji Fortuna)

 

 

 

The Angolans

 

 

 

Riva (Patsha Bay Mukuna)

 

 

 

 

Military commander (Marlene Longange)

 

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