Baloji and his captivating journey, between surrealism and witchcraft

THE OPINION OF THE “WORLD” – NOT TO BE MISSED

Former member of the Belgian hip-hop group Starflam, author-composer of several albums that gained him notoriety, the artist Baloji produced two short films (Kaniama show2018 and Zombies2019) before delivering Augurhis first feature film. A film impregnated with “magical realism”, as he himself defines it, in which the Belgian-Congolese director, as a talented alchemist, promotes the experience of a fusion between the two cultures, African and European, from which he comes. Born in Lubumbashi in 1979, in Zaire (currently the Democratic Republic of Congo), living in Belgium since the age of 4, Baloji claims the influence of the two countries that, in equal parts, shape him. And he dictates the formal aspect of his works.

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Son of surrealism and witchcraft, of Belgian carnivals and Congolese parades, influenced by American music and cinema, Baloji could not proceed in any other way than by superposition, montage, concentration. Mixing images and sounds (the artist is, in fact, gifted with synesthesia) that he reproduces in profusion, his limitless imagination ignores borders and expresses itself in all areas: in music, fashion, writing, cinema.

This means how much Augur it was a joy, despite the only twenty-three days of filming Baloji had to meet his budget. All these playful spaces gathered and open before him… He took advantage of them, wrote the script, collaborated with Elke Hoste on the costumes, worked on the film’s soundtrack alongside composer Liesa Van der Aa.

Result: with Augur, Baloji made a grand entry into films. Selected in May at the Cannes Film Festival for Un Certain Regard, his film won the New Voice Prize. Three months later, at the Angoulême French-speaking film festival, he received the Achievement Award. Today, he is rightly competing to represent Belgium at the Oscars, in the best foreign film category.

Gang of children

Baroque, bubbly, Augur it summons rites and beliefs, spells, healers, dreamlike visions, delivering through this medium the story, both realistic and fantasized, of a return to the country. A return marked by a reunion with the family, women, men and children of the neighborhood, but also with the spirits, whether protective or malevolent, that act in every house and on every corner. Baloji, in Swahili, means “sorcerer”. But in the film, the man who returns, after eighteen years of absence, is called Koffi (Marc Zinga). He made the trip to introduce Alice (Lucie Debay), his European wife, pregnant with twins, to his parents. However, the welcome is not the warmest. It’s no surprise that Koffi was born with a wine stain on his face – the mark of the devil – and suffers from epilepsy, which makes it look like he’s possessed. Therefore, it is better to keep your distance. What his mother does not deprive herself of, the formidable Mama Mujila (Yves-Marina Gnahoua), whose haughty bearing and withering gaze freeze the blood.

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