Félicité is the story of a singer in Kinshasa whose fragile independence is shattered when her son Samo has an awful motorbike accident. Suddenly she needs 900 dollars, an extreme amount for a woman living in a tough economy, as she fights for her son’s life – literally. The film is slow, in a way that lets you feel very close to her. There were moments that really hit you, and the director Alain Comis doesn’t let you off the hook, you feel her pain. The third key character is Tabu, a character who drinks and loves hard by night and spends his days as a repair man, it’s his poetry and his humour that provide the gentle breaks in the movie’s tension.
I was lucky to be at the opening of the World Cinema Amsterdam Festival where this was shown, and the Director spoke on stage at the end of the movie. He explained that the story started in Senegal (his home country) but moved to Congo when he heard the music of the Kasai Allstars, with whom Félicité sings throughout the movie. He was asked how he found the actress to play the title role. He said “she found me!” He’d imagined a different look for Félicité but kept coming back to Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in the audition process. She makes the movie, she has a quiet power even in the harshest scenes.
This isn’t an easy movie, as a viewer you have to do some “work” to grasp the story – it’s not all set out for you. But it’s a film that pulls you in and leaves you somewhat hopeful.
You can see it; Saturday 19th August at the Rialto 6.45pm at the Rialto, or Monday 21st August 7pm at De Balie.
See the website of the World Cinema Amsterdam Festival for more movies, the festival is on to 26 August, so be quick!