by writer/director Djo Tunda wa Munga
I remember back in the seventies when I started watching movies in Congo when I was six or seven. There were mainly genre films available, including westerns and kung fu, but also movies like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot from filmmaker Michael Cimino that I discovered much later. I have a very clear memory of Jeff Bridges’ performance in that one.
In school I studied fine arts, but I never thought that I’d become a filmmaker—it just didn’t occur to me. At the same time, I spent my days and nights watching movies over and over again. I enjoyed the camera shots, characters, dialogue and performances in films such as Brian De Palma’s Body Double, which was so huge in my teenage years. I also discovered other movies including Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses, Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour, and David Cronenberg’s Crash. When desire is plastered on the screen in such a strong and obvious way, it is a kind of revolution when you are thirteen.
Even after I entered film school, it took me years of personal struggle to accept that cinema was my life. After many years spent abroad I had to go back to Congo in 2000 to accept that the journey I’d started in small cinemas in Kinshasa twenty years before was the essence of who I’d become. That is what you get in my first feature film Viva Riva!: the sum of my love and passion for cinema and a true vision of where I come from and who I am.
It’s not an accident that the international theatrical opening of Viva Riva! will be in New York and Los Angeles on the 10th of June. The cinemas I used to go to when I was child have disappeared, so in a way, it feels right to begin here on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It feels right that my personal journey with the audience will start here with you, because we started watching the same films a long time ago. And I will travel all over the world, including Congo, where I’ll personally work on building new cinema and keeping the dream alive. Keep cinema alive.