Makala is an extraordinarily revealing and surprisingly gorgeous look
at everyday life for a charcoal salesman in the Democratic Republic
of Congo. French documentary filmmaker Emmanuel Gras follows
28-year-old Kabwita Kasongo through the entire process of making
and selling charcoal: finding and cutting down a tree in the vast plains
near his village in the southern region of Katanga, burying and burning
the wood to create charcoal, loading multiple bulging bags of charcoal
onto a rickety bicycle and walking it several days to the city of Kolwezi,
where he hopes to sell his merchandise on its markets and streets.
What sets Makala (the Swahili word for “charcoal”) apart from other
documentaries about workers in developing countries is its sheer
filmic quality: Kabwita’s simple but challenging objective to get the
coal to the big city and sell enough to buy supplies to build a house for
himself and his family has the dramatic force of the great humanist
films from Bicycle Thieves on down, while Gras’s virtuosic widescreen
camerawork constantly anchors his individual struggle in the larger
context of the Congo’s breathtakingly beautiful landscape and its
rapidly shifting economy.

Emmanuel Gras

Emmanuel Gras

Kabwita Kasongo
Lydie Kasongo

French, Swahili
96 min.
France, 2018
DVD, Blu-Ray

Kino Lorber