African dreams in sounds and images by Baloji

African dreams in sounds and images by Baloji


Before the release of his first feature film, Augure , on screens on November 29, director Baloji is attending previews and festivals in Europe and campaigning for the Oscars: he represents Belgium for the best film award stranger. His choral film, which tells the story of four Congolese people struggling with tradition and witchcraft trials, has already won several awards. In May, in Cannes, in the Un certain regard selection, he won the New Voice Prize, then in August that of directing at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival. Not bad for a rapper who, until then, had only made short films, the first to illustrate his song, Peau de chagrin – Bleu de Nuit , then the following ones, Kaniama Show and Zombies, before diving into the big bath of the cinema.

The former member of the Belgian hip-hop group Starflam has led an atypical solo career for more than fifteen years, with an extraordinary visual demand and albums as varied as they are rare, from the very soulful Hotel Impala (2007) and its African version, Kinshasa Branch (2011), at refined 137 avenue Kaniama (2018). At the end of November, he will publish the first songs from the four EPs, which will bear the name of each of the characters in his film: Koffi, Paco, Tshala and Mama Mujila.

Not content with being a protean artist, Baloji is also a model. And, rather than being present in the front row of the fashion shows, he embedded himself in the workshops of the big houses to study the fabrics, the materials, which allowed him to make, with his accomplice Elke Hoste, the costumes of his film, the prototypes of which he is exhibiting until June 2024 at the Antwerp Fashion Museum.

Break the clichés

Despite a first film which presents itself under happy auspices, Baloji seems pessimistic. His stay in Los Angeles in October reassured him about the film’s reception in the United States, but as for being in the race for the Oscars, he has few illusions: “The members of the Academy have ninety foreign films to watch, he sums up in a hotel room in Brussels. It’s complicated to attract attention and, on the other hand, there are only legends, great masters: Aki Kaurismäki who is making his twenty-fifth film and who is competing for Finland, Wim Wenders [selected by Japan] …”

Despite its price on the Croisette, he is still skeptical about the reception that France can give it : “If I manage to stay on the screens for two weeks, I will be happy. » Baloji fears that the public will be confused by his film which emphasizes the marvelous, what he calls “magical realism”, a mixture of tales from the Brothers Grimm and African superstitions.

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