FabAfriq Magazine

African Movie Ice breaker!!!

Djo Tunda Wa Munga is an emerging force in the cinema world and no force can stop him! Winner of six African Movie Awards and two MTV movie awards, we are positively thrilled at the chance to interview and congratulate him on his wins. His latest movie, Viva Riva is a gangster thriller about charismatic criminal, Riva, for whom a sudden burst of stolen wealth ignites an exhilarating, hedonistic and perilous journey through one of the most intriguing cities in Africa - Kinshasa. The script, direction, editing, and music, altogether made it an explosive and award deserving body of work.

He walks in for the interview and it's fair to say here is a man who knows his worth and is confident in his ability to deliver. Back straight and shoulders tall, he makes for a formidable interviewee. He sucks in his bottom lip as is habitual and he's ready for lift off.

FM: It is a pleasure to have you do an interview with us. How are you today?

Djo: I am very well, thank you and it is a pleasure to be featured by FabAfriq Magazine.

FM: I must say what an excellent job you made of writing and directing this movie. What was the motivation for the production?

Djo: Africa has a vast pool of resources but famine is one thing that is characteristic of almost every African nation. My inspiration comes from my artistic call to redevelop a story relevant to my country. Often, here is a distinct lack of honesty in the manner in which events are portrayed and I think we need to create films and stories that portray the society as it is; films the entire world can be proud of.

FM: Tell us a little about the journey you went on to finish this work.

Djo: It took me almost 7 years to release this movie. I wanted to create a masterpiece, something which as I said, depicts the society as it is. It took a great deal of time to plan and get into place everything I needed to complete the work in a professional manner. Africa lacks a firm movie base, the industry is not fully developed and logistics can be a nightmare. This is a business that needs proficiency and patience. I had to be extremely careful with the selection of the people I want to work with; I coached and trained them for a few years. Research had to be carried out on the relevant background of my storyline to ensure it is as close to reality as possible. The very fact that this great movie was being made in Kinshasa was very exciting. It really is a credit to the entire population here who made it easy for us to work. Most people gave us their homes and other resources without any problems.

FM: The story is set in Congo. Did you shoot most of the movie there?

Djo: The entire movie was shot in Congo. It was the only way of capturing and retaining the feel I wanted. Without that, it would not have been as real and I wanted it to be. With the exception of two of my cast from Paris and Angola, my entire cast came from Congo too.

FM: It is still possible to get mired in the political crises in Congo. How did you manage to stay clear of it?

Djo: In order to rebuild our society, we must reinvent in ourselves. The socio-cultural society need to have a valid and good reason of being there. My goal was not only to rebuild the society, but to create employment opportunities for the people who live there. We stayed well clear of any political issues because we do not want to sway from our main focus, which was to produce a very good movie and give a new vision to the youth in our country.

FM: Why gasoline?

Djo: Every African country needs Gasoline. This is probably, the one product that is universal to Africans. In a bid to stay true to our aim of a realistic story, we chose a product that we felt the vast majority of Africans could connect to. The gasoline crisis actually happened in 1990-1991, so this was a real life scenario albeit in different terms.

FM: Tell us about the kind of work you have done in the past.

Djo: My background has been in short film productions and documentaries. Through these, I was able to study the field and learn to manage my finances and resources better. I also made a lot of mistakes I learned from and that helped me transfer better production styles to my movie. Documentaries are real and provided me with great firsthand experience of producing movies that people are likely to find impressive.

FM: How did you manage to get the perfect team together?

Djo: Planning! I planned for long and made sure I recruited the best people. I looked for people who wanted to learn and who had skills that could be explored and developed. I also mixed people from different areas. Through this, my team were able to learn from each other. Simply, I had a perfect blend of people who understood our task, the objectives we were trying to achieve.

FM: Was there anyone else you would have loved to include?

Djo: NO! I was very satisfied with my team and will use them again in movies that require the skills they possess. This team is great because it took a lot of time and planning to identify the right skills and bring them together. There are other great actors with amazing skills but because they did not fit in this particular movie, I could not use them. This does not mean I will not use them in the future.

FM: The sex scenes were very explicit. Do you think if will put some Africans off?

Djo: We need to get real. Africans need to be realistic. Sex is everywhere and gone are those days when people thought we need to preserve our virginity. If we all accept the fact that this is our society, then we can learn to appreciate the things we do. The sex scenes were included to show a colourful and vibrant but generic side to the movie.

FM: Did you have a particular audience in mind? Western or African?

Djo: Movie lovers! This is actually a great question because I did not want to give the wrong impression to our African community. I did not want someone to meet me in a pub and resent me for making a movie that was not African oriented. The movie has been appreciated in many countries and sold out at several festivals. It was sold out in Hong Kong before many had the opportunity of knowing it was even there. It also sold out in Paris, Berlin, etc. I am excited because it means people all over the world believe in what I did.

FM: How did you feel when Viva Riva won the award for MTV best African Movie of 2011?

Djo: That was AMAZING. I felt, still feel so happy, I enjoyed and loved it. I didn't think I stood a chance. Looking at past trends, the awards for best movies or directors have always been awarded to works from Nigeria, Kenya or some other English speaking country. With our recent award, I can say the MTV African Movie award is for real. (He laughs). This award symbolises a lot to me personally. It means it is time for Africans to open up and look beyond the usual. It is time for Africans to do things for the love of it, rather than for the love of money.

FM: As winner of Best African Film and Best Director, do you think you are now presented with new challenges?

Djo: The challenge will be to get Africans in particular, to buy tickets to watch this movie. We need to have people from our cultural background to support us. I know it will appeal to a lot of Europeans and Americans but what will make me innately satisfied would be support from our brothers and sisters. The next challenge would be to produce an even better movie. The next movie has to be better than this one.

FM: How do you ensure you meet the challenge?

Djo: My word is that every movie I produce should be better than the last one. With this in mind, I am ready for any challenges on the road ahead.

FM: What do you think makes a great movie?

Djo: The story and quality of work; consistency and good cinematography. Err...One thing I almost forgot is the meaning. Every great story must have meaning!

FM: How long do you think we will have to wait till your next offering?

Djo: (He laughed very hard * Very soon, but let's see what the Box Office has for us and then we can proceed from there

FM: What can we do to play our part in this movement?

Djo: Spread the word. Encourage people to watch it and encourage them to spread the word too!

FM: Thanks a lot for taking time out of what must be a busy schedule to talk with us. I am sure this will inspire a lot of readers. We'll look forward to your next movie and VIP tickets for an "Avant Premiere"(smile).

Djo: Absolutely, the pleasure's been all mine and let's do this again (*Wink*).

It was an absolute pleasure delving into what I think is one of the great African minds, certainly one of Africa's most creative directors. We will keep abreast of any developments which we will promptly share with you. Viva Riva is distributed by Icarus Films and set for release in UK cinemas on Friday, 24th of June, 2011. Can't wait to get a ticket, can you?

Photo Gallery

FabAfriq Facebook Activity