Congo River

Thierry Michel

Belgium/France 2005, 116 min.

Reporting from the Berlin Film Festival for the Canadian magazine Cinema Scope, Tony Rays described Congo River as a National-Geographic-style travelogue – which doesn’t begin to transcend its status as middling TV material.  If only it was so simple.  Congo River certainly has some of the didacticism that Rayns invokes here; the voice-over is not integrated particularly well, and there are moments of ethnographic voyeurism (such as scenes of a ritual scarring ceremony) that do indeed recall the simplicity of the much-reviled National Geographic (a form that has come to signify a relatively benign liberal curiosity that, while sometimes prurient and patronising, doesn’t strike me as worthy of the fire that is so often poured down upon it by many leftists).  But there are stranger moments in the film as well.

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