Our review: “Makala” – Emmanuel Gras


Makala recounts the incredible daily life of Kabwita


Makala means charcoal in Lingala, the main dialect in the Republic of Congo. It is also the title of the documentary directed by Emmanuel Gras. In an area devastated by deforestation, Kabwita sells charcoal to support his family. Cut a tree, create a coal oven, transport this fuel on foot for 30 miles … All this would seem commonplace in writing. But Gras gives all its dimension and strength to this incredible daily life.

The film trudges a fine line between documentary and fiction, even if Gras disagrees with this view, as he explained during a preview in Lyon. It is filmed in very much a chronological and stylistic way. And we are not used to it. This “raw” view is the result of a Gras’ technical research on the image. Yet the most beautiful moments are the simplest, the reels speaks for themselves.

Some parts grab us by the heart do not let go. The almost natural writing connects us to a story with surrealist suspense. What’s going to happen? The reality of Kabwita is transcendent. Who are we, in our cinema seat facing this man who is testing himself and his environment? It is a documentary.

Les compositions de Gaspar Claus donnent un ton unique à cette réalisation et résonnent subtilement avec l’image.

Gaspar Claus’s music gives a unique tone which resonates sublimely with the images. Kabwita’s plight is beautifully accompanied by a cello and is far removed from the clichés of “Africa = drum”. It’s a powerful ensemble that makes us look tiny in front of a character who has deserves a lot of credit. Kabwita is alone in the world and asks for nothing, yet I wanted to help him.

Is not this the sign of Makala’s success?

Quentin Duforeau

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