“Benda Bilili!” documentary soon to be broadcast in Africa


Upcoming “Benda Bilili!” will be released start of September 2010 and is about to be distributed. It should be very well received across Africa. DRC and Reunion have already signed up. Theatre circuits and TV stations are invited to get in touch with the film’s international distributor “Funny Balloons” in Paris. The feature-documentary produced in 2009, filmed in congolese language “lingala” with sub-titles available in most international languages with a 1:24 runtime was made by directors Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye and produced by Studio 37.

“Benda Bilili!” is about this incredible story of a talented music band - Staff Benda Bilili orchestra - from the suburbs of Kinshasa, Congo that made it big on the international scene. The core of the band consists of four senior singers/guitarist, who are all disabled - they suffered from poliomyelitis when they were young - and move around in spectacularly bespoke tricycles. Some of their songs talk about how to live with a handicap. Their music is rooted in rumba, with elements of old-school rhythm'n'blues and reggae. They are backed by a younger rhythm section consisting of ex-sheges, abandoned street kids who were taken under the protection of the older members of the band. The soloist is an 18 year-old boy who plays guitar-like solos on an electrified one-stringed lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can.
The band rehearsed in Kinshasa zoo, because it was a quiet location, and played the streets of Kinshasa until they were heard by Vincent Kenis, a Belgian record producer specialising in Congolese music, who arranged for the band to record their debut album, Tres Tres Fort ("Very Very Strong"). Staff Benda Bilili have earned the 2009 Artist Award at Womex (World Music Expo).

The release of their album raised enthusiastic response in the international media, especially in Great Britain, France and in the USA. The film is about this band. Ricky has a dream: to make “Staff Benda Bilili” the best band in Congo. Roger, a street child, wants to join these stars from the ghetto, who get around in customized “Mad-Max” style bikes. Together, they have to avoid the streets’ pitfalls, stay united and find the force for hope in music. For five years, from the first rehearsals to their triumph in international festivals, Benda Bilili! (“beyond appearances”) is the story of this dream come reality.

Benda Bilili! was presented at the Cannes Festival 2010 as part of « la Quinzaine des Réalisateurs ».

Group « Staff Benda Bilili » includes: Léon “Ricky” Likabu, Roger Landu, Coco Ngambali Yakala Theo “Coude” Nsituvuidi, Claude Kinunu Montana, Paulin “Cavalier” Kiara-Maigi, Djunana Tanga-Suele, Cubain Kabeya, Makembo Nzalé Zadis Mbulu Nzungu, Waroma “Santu Papa” Abi-Ngoma Kabanba Kabose Kasungo, Maria Barli Djongo.