Synopsis: Riva (Patsha Bay Mukuna) is a small time operator who has just returned to his hometown of Kinshasa, Congo after a decade away with a major score: a fortune in hijacked petrol. With wads of cash and all out for a good time, Riva is soon entranced by the beautiful night club denizen Nora (Manie Malone), the kept woman of a local gangster. Into the mix comes Riva’s Angolan crime lord ex-boss relentlessly seeking the return of a certain stolen shipment of gasoline.
Note: Film is presented in Lingala and French with English subtitles.
Release Date: June 10, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Thriller
Viva Riva! is the story of Riva (Patsha Bay Mukuna), a young man who has just brought a large amount of stolen gasoline back to his hometown of Kinshasa in the Congo, where fuel is in very high demand. Unfortunately for Riva, the former owner of the gas, a hoodlum named Cesar (Hoji Fortuna), has also arrived in Kinshasa along with a couple of his goons, and he is looking for revenge. With his new found wealth, the happy-go-lucky Riva starts partying all night without a care in the world, even when he finds out that Cesar is on his trail. Riva has more important things on his mind, most notably Nora (Manie Malone), the girlfriend of a big-time Kinshasa gangster named Azor (Diplome Amekndra). Meanwhile, Cesar has, through blackmail and extortion, enlisted the help of a military commander known simply as the Commandante (Marlene Longange) to help him track Riva down. Of course, when Azor finds out about Riva’s gasoline haul, he seizes the opportunity and tries to take it for himself. The lines are drawn, the alliances are formed, and the plot of Viva Riva! starts to get complicated.
Viva Riva! is the creation of Congolese writer/producer/director Djo Tunda Wa Munga. It is a violent, grim and desolate vision of life in Munga’s hometown of Kinshasa. Munga took a mostly unknown and inexperienced cast and made a classic crime film that is a perfect mixture of City of God and Scarface. Viva Riva! is an action-packed throwback to classic crime dramas, but not a parody of them. The style is similar to Quentin Tarantino’s films, but without the tongue-in-cheek humor.
The script for Viva Riva! is a cleverly written tale of dishonesty and betrayal. There is little honor among thieves in Viva Riva!, and just about everyone gets stabbed in the back. The different subplots of the stolen gas and Riva’s courting of Nora intertwine and intersect in an explosive way that the viewer does not see coming. Several times throughout the movie, more than one character gives reason to wonder whose side they are on, and alliances shift so quickly that no one can be trusted. Munga’s script keeps the action level high and the surprises coming until the very last scene. The dialogue is all in French and Lingala (with English subtitles, which are notoriously inaccurate), so the English speaking audience won’t get the full effect of the spoken word, but the plot is well crafted enough to keep even a slow-reading viewer engaged.
Viva Riva! is wonderfully shot. Director of Photography Antoine Roch does a great job at capturing the mood and vibe of the city of Kinshasa. His use of angles and selective focus shows an eye well beyond his limited experience, and the results of his efforts are dark and gritty. Roch successfully captures the juxtaposition between the desolate poverty and the scorching nightlife of Kinshasa. Roch utilizes the natural look of Kinshasa to craft a film that it beautiful in its ugliness.
Roch’s cinematography works in tandem with the production design of Phillipe van Herwijnen to make an extremely realistic looking film. Shot on location in the Congo, the town of Kinshasa becomes an additional character in the film. Every detail and every building is authentic. Every set is dressed perfectly, with each room looking exactly as one would imagine it should, whether it is the Commandante’s sparsely furnished office or Azor’s lavish (compared to the rest of the town) palace. There is nothing left to chance. Viva Riva! gives the viewer the Kinshasa experience, for better and for worse.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Djo Tunda Wa Munga
- Producer(s): Djo Munga
- Screenwriter(s): Patsha Bay (Riva)Manie Malone (Nora)Hoji Fortuna (Cesar)
- Story: Diplome Amekindra (Azor)
- Cast: Alex Herabo (J.M.) Yves LangloisPascal LatilAntione RochPhillippe van Herwijnen
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: Democratic Republic of the CongoFrance