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Portrait
Cinema

Mwezé Ngangura

You have to avoid the trope of exoticism for a film to be truly universal.

A Congolese filmmaker living in Belgium, Mwezé Ngangura is the man behind several short and feature films, some of them fictional, others documentary. His work, which is extremely popular in French-speaking Africa, tells the story of his home country, scrutinises African emigration and illustrates the interdisciplinary quality of music.

Published on 11/02/2021

2 min

Mwezé Ngangura was born in 1950 in Bukavu, in what was then Belgian Congo. After completing his studies in Literary Humanities, he won a grant to study filmmaking at the Institut des Arts et Métiers in Brussels. He graduated in 1975 and returned to the Congo – then Zaire – to teach film. For several years he made a number of documentary films for Congolese television, before returning to Brussels. Keen to retain his independence, he founded his own production company in 1985, Sol’Oeil Films, which enabled him to co-produce his first major feature film, La vie est belle (Life is Rosy, 1987), the story of a young man from rural Congo who decides to make a living from music. In 1996 he launched his second production company, Films Sud, in the Belgian capital, with which he has since made four films, their filming locations alternating between the continents of Africa and Europe.

When Ngangura first embarked on a career in the seventh art, the Congolese audiovisual landscape was dominated by precise themes, namely the one-party state and “Mobutism”, or the official state doctrine promote by the leader of Zaire between 1965 and 1997, Mobutu Sese Seko. Refusing to be a mouthpiece for the regime, Ngangura produced films based on universality “that could speak just as must to European audiences as African ones”, particularly through the study of multiculturalism and works of fiction focused on music, such as La Vie est belle (1987), Changa-Changa (1992) and Pièces d’identités (Identity Pieces, 1999).

Ngangura's first feature film was enough for him to join the ranks of the greatest names in African cinema. La vie est belle (1987) won over a large audience in the French-speaking areas of the continent with its enchanting storyline, a poignant romance fuelled by musical passion, and the inclusion of the famous Congolese musician Papa Wemba in the cast. But Ngangura counts the actual start of his career as the moment he was awarded the Etalon de Yennenga (Stallion of Yennenga) at the 1999 Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) for his second feature film, comedy drama Pièces d’identités. His subsequent work went on to be broadcast on European channels such as ARTE (for Changa-Changa, 1992) and presented at major international festivals, such as the Montreal World Film Festival with Le Général Tombeur (1997). 

  • 1985

    1985

    Mwezé Ngangura founds his own production company, Sol’Oeil Films.

  • 1987

    1987

    His fictional feature film, La vie est belle, is released to great acclaim.

  • 1996

    1996

    The filmmaker launches his second production company, Films Sud.

  • 1999

    1999

    Ngangura wins the Etalon de Yennega prize for his second feature, Pieces d’identités

The Institut français and the filmmaker

Several films by Mwezé Ngangura, such as Kin Kiesse (1982), has been screened internationally by the Institut français.

The Institut français, together with the Cinémathèque Afrique, offers a catalogue of over 1,600 African films from 1960 to the present day. Learn more about the Cinémathèque Afrique 

L'institut français, LAB