With petrol in short supply in Kinshasa, DRC, Riva (Patsha Bay) and his sidekick J.M. (Alex Herabo) plan to get hold of a secret cache which they can sell for a huge profit. They're not the only ones who want the liquid cash. Cesar (Hoji Fortuna) is a ruthless foreigner from Angola thriving in Kinshasa's lawless streets. A lesbian military officer (Marlene Longage) joins the fray. Even the church will betray its tenets for a piece of the action. But Riva's main nemesis is Azor (Diplome Amekindra), a crime boss in the classic style: big, decadent and brutal. He's not a man to mess with, but his girlfriend, Nora (Manie Malone), may just be the most seductive woman in all of DRC. Riva catches sight of her dancing at a nightclub and it's not long before Nora matches the fuel cache as his most coveted target.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Crime, sex, violence, music ... it's a strong brew of Congolese soup that stands up well in the genre, using and expanding on the key elements. The petrol shortage in the city fuels a battle between crims who have no regard for niceties. Riva (Patsha Bay) is the least nasty of the nasties, an easy going, cash hungry and woman loving man who barters with a stash of barrels.
Filmmaker Djo Munga does a great job of keeping the film travelling at a hefty pace with the characters bouncing all over Kinshasa, a colourful if dilapidated town with colourful and dilapidated people. The film's characters are as varied as a bag of marbles, with Marlene Longage a standout as the butch Commander (not sure of what force) and Hoji Fortuna makes an impression as Cesar, the white suited Angolan gang boss.
Manie Malone is slinky as Nora, the woman who steals Riva's heart, and Riva steals her from her gangster boyfriend, the brutish Azor (Diplome Amekindra).
Shot in warm tones, the film looks great, and Munga manages the sex and the violence with a down to earth frankness that neither lingers nor hides. With its Lingala and French dialogue subtitled into English, Viva Riva! Is both exotic and engaging, with an earthy edge. But it also has a sophisticated side, and it's easy to imagine the film set in any Western city, made by a bravado independent filmmaker.
Making its debut at the Berlin Film Festival, Viva Riva! got a warm welcome.
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VIVA RIVA! (MA15+)
CAST: Patsha Bay, Manie Malone, Hoji Fortuna, Marlene Longange, Romain Ndomba, Diplome Amekindra, Alex Herabo, Angelique Mbumb
PRODUCER: Djo Munga
DIRECTOR: Djo Munga
SCRIPT: Djo Munga
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Antoine Roch
EDITOR: Yves Langlois, Pascal Latil
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philippe van Herwijnen
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 13, 2011