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Singer Félicité experiences a personal tragedy when her son is severely injured in an accident. She tries to raise enough money to pay for his necessary operation. Alain Gomis’ intoxicating, poetic film is about the dialectic between fighting ...


The Kasai Allstars from Kinshasa might be familiar to you, the band appeared at the Glastonbury Festival in 2015. Björk and Damon Albarn count them as an influence. The droning, polyrhythmic, trance-like brachial sound of the Allstars is reminiscent of the minimal grooves of bands like Can, The Fall, and Public Image Ltd., if you want to look for “white“ parallels. The Kasai Allstars play traditional African trance rhythms with a rock band line-up and traditional folk instruments will electronic distortions and effects that result in a hypnotic, urban noise groove. It has little to do with the cool afro-pop of earlier years.

The Kasai Allstars determine the sound of the film FÉLICITÉ by Franco-Senegalese director Alain Gomis. They are the back-up band of Félicité (Véro Tshanda Beya), an independent, powerful singer who performs in night clubs in Kinshasa. The audience is nicely drunk in the beginning, giant Tabu (Papi Mpaka) staggers across the place and challenges people to fight him, while the band gets into a rhythm. Félicités fridge is broken the next day and so she meets Tabu again: poet, drinker, and fridge repair man. Then, her son Samo (Gaetan Claudia) has a bad accident. In order to prevent his leg from getting amputated, Félicité has to get a lot of money together fast. She begs, extorts money, is thrown out of rich people‘s houses, cheated, and tries to fight back. Kinshasa seems like a hell where everyone deceives each other, a hell with a fitting soundtrack provided by Félicité and the band. Thieves are violently beaten on the street, and you ask yourself if the same thing happened to Félicité‘s son.

The second hour is a surreal rush which ends in a kind of healing. The Kinshasa Philharmonic joins the soundtrack and they perform Arvo Pärt pieces. Félicité mutters a translation of Novalis‘ “Hymnen an die Nacht“. Tabu gets angry and jokes around. Somewhere between anger, grief, and a okapi, who suddenly stands in front of Félicité, some kind of love is made. Félicité shoos Tabu‘s sex partner out of bed the night before and reclaims the space and body of the man for herself. An encounter between free people who give each other strength, not out of obligation, but because they can. When Tabu finally repairs the damn fridge as a big gesture, the Berlinale press screening applauded. The thing starts making a hell of a lot of noise shortly after. Samo is dying of laughter from the couch. “Turn the TV on“, says Tabu.

FÉLICITÉ is a powerful film about the “dialectic between struggles and acceptance“ as director Alain Gomis says. His poetic, political, spiritually convincing, and stirring film would‘ve been a more worthy Berlinale winner than the trivial kitsch the jury decided on.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Felicite
Frankreich/ Deutschland/ Belgien/ Libanon/ Senegal 2017, 123 min
Genre: Drama, Music Films
Director: Alain Gomis
Author: Alain Gomis, Olivier Loustau
DOP: Céline Bozon
Montage: Alain Gomis, Fabrice Rouaud
Distributor: Grandfilm
Cast: Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia, Papi Mpaka
FSK: 6
Release: 05.10.2017




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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