Benda Bilili

Benda Bilili Film Review

500 Days Of Film Reviews Benda Bilili And Finds A Fascinating Documentary About The Power Of Music

Documentary filmmakers, Renaud Barret and Florent de La Tullaye discovered Staff Benda Bilili - a band of musicians living in Kinshasa - whilst trying to make a movie about urban music.

Many of the band’s members are disabled (some as a result of polio). When we first meet them, they are all struggling to survive. Indeed, after a fire at their shelter, some of the men and their families lose everything and are forced live on the streets. 

This is not a depressing film, however. The tone is relentlessly upbeat. The musicians, and their leader, Papa Ricky, in particular, are convinced that optimism and a good work ethic will eventually see them through.  

As the documentary progresses, the band start to believe that music is going to save them and, for a while, it does.

Is It Any Good?

That this is a heartbreaking and really moving film, there is no doubt. The deprivation seen on the streets of Kinshasa is hard to watch and impossible to imagine. 

You see children and adults scrabbling for small pieces of cardboard so that they can make a shelter, you see the ravages of polio and you look straight into the empty abyss of extreme poverty.

However, you do not feel pity - quite the opposite - you feel tremendous respect. These are not downtrodden people. They are aspirational, highly motivated and their music is amazing. 

Benda Bilili tells a truly incredible story.

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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