Félicité by Alain Gomis at the HFA
March 2, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
FILMMAKER IN PERSON
Please join us for a reception honoring Alain Gomis after the screening
Directed by Alain Gomis. With Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia, Papi Mpaka France/Belgium/Senegal/Germany/Lebanon 2017, DCP, color, 129 min. Lingala and French with English subtitles
Gomis’ latest work stars Congolese singer Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in her first film role as a nightclub singer and mother whose life is suddenly turned overturned by the near-fatal accident of her wayward son. Following in the footsteps of Pasolini, Bong Joon-Ho and Ripstein-Garciadiego, Gomis invents an indelible maternal figure who vividly embodies the hard truths and paradoxes of motherhood: the crushing burden of responsibility; the festering resentment between mother and offspring; and the love that nevertheless grows between them, like a stubborn root in rocky soil. Making innovative use of music, Félicité adds a new dimension to Gomis’ cinema by offsetting Mputu’s captivating vocal performances with her real-life collaborators, the Kasai Allstars, against a moody and contrapuntal score provided by a local orchestra whose music floats up to accompany Mputu at some of her most difficult moments. Here, and in unexplained nocturnal dream or fantasy sequences, Gomis holds up melodrama as a construct—pointing to the role of melos, or music, to elicit emotion and empathy. Winner of top prizes in both Berlin and FESPACO, Africa’s most important film festival, Félicité offers both a moving portrait of resilience and an indictment of the corruption and violence that colors everyday life in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The films of Alain Gomis (b. 1972) define a richly cinematic mode of narrative portraiture. Each of his four features centers around willful characters overwhelmed by difficult circumstances that force them to question their place within a world that seems indifferent and even hostile to their plight. From the Senegalese graduate student in Gomis’ first film L’Afrance, who must decide whether to stay in Paris without papers, to the mother in his newest feature Félicité, whose desperate situation drives her to seek help from friends, family and strangers alike, Gomis’ protagonists suddenly find themselves radically disoriented, no longer able to find a stability within a place they once called home. Ultimately, L’Afrance and Félicité—as well as Andalucia and Aujourd’hui—expand to pointedly question the relationship of the individual and citizen to an uncaring state while also examining the tensions and contradictions of the multi-ethnic and multi-tribal local communities redefining French and African cities today. A fascination with the vitality and dangers of urban life gives Gomis’ films a distinct rhythm and energy as they poetically alternate between the almost stream-of-consciousness perspective of their drifting characters and raw, verité scenes of unruly, violent city streets.
Born in France into a Senegalese and Bissau-Guinean family, Alain Gomis has divided his films between France and Francophone Africa, offering a unique vista over the sharp differences and deep bonds that continue to define the relationship between Europe and its former colonies. In many ways the extreme sensitivity of his characters—who hear, touch and see their world with an acute yet wandering attention—embodies the same position and argument as Gomis’ humanist cinema, which gives dignity and moving voice to lives made difficult by socioeconomic and historical injustices while pointing to the world beyond his compelling characters and their urgent stories, toward that vital place glimpsed only from the edge of the story and frame.
Together with the Film Study Center and the McMillan-Stewart Foundation, the Harvard Film Archive is proud to welcome Alain Gomis as the winner of the Film Study Center’s 2018 Geneviève McMillan-Reba Stewart Fellowship in Distinguished Filmmaking. – Haden Guest, Director of the Harvard Film Archive
More details on all events with Alain Gomis here.