Baloji and his captivating journey, between surrealism and witchcraft


“Augury”, by Baloji.

THE “WORLD’S” OPINION – NOT TO BE MISSED

Former member of the Belgian hip-hop group Starflam, author-composer of several albums which earned him his notoriety, the artist Baloji has produced two short formats (Kaniama Show2018, and Zombies2019) before delivering Augurhis first feature film. A film imbued with “magical realism”, as he defines it himself, in which the Belgian-Congolese director, as a talented alchemist, pushes the experience of a fusion between the two cultures, African and European, from which he comes. Born in Lubumbashi in 1979 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), residing in Belgium since the age of 4, Baloji claims the influence of the two countries which, in equal parts, shape him. And dictate the formal aspect of his works.

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

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

Result: with Augur, Baloji made a grand entrance into cinema. 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 Directing Prize. Today, he rightly finds himself in the running to represent Belgium at the Oscars, in the best foreign film category.

Gang of kids

Baroque, bubbling, Augur summons rites and beliefs, bad spells, healers, dreamlike visions, delivering through this means the story, both realistic and fantasized, of a return to the country. A return marked by reunions with the family, the women, men and children of the neighborhood, but also the spirits, protective or evil, who act in every home and on every street corner. Baloji, in Swahili, means “sorcerer”. But in the film, the man who returns, after eighteen years of absence, is named Koffi (Marc Zinga). He made the trip to introduce Alice (Lucie Debay), his European wife, pregnant with twins, to her parents. However, the welcome is not the warmest. For good reason, Koffi was born with a wine stain on his face – the mark of the devil – and suffers from epilepsy, which makes it appear that he is possessed. It is therefore 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 chill the blood.

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