2004 French directors Renaud Barret and Florent de La Tullaye, sick of Paris embarked on a trip to Kinshasa, the capital of the Republic of Congo, with the aim of filming urban musicians. As fate struck they stumbled across the Staff Benda Bilili, a street band made up of extraordinary musicians fighting their daily life in unimaginable conditions. This is their story. One day they eat the next they don’t. They sleep on cardboard and love and care for all.
Ricky, the heart and soul of the band is always at the centre of the well edited film as he brings together musicians, arranges songs for them to play, as well as guiding young street kids away from the short-term buzz which gang life offers. He is a true inspiration.
The band itself is made up of street kids and elder disabled members, some have guitars and wonderful voices, some have a wire on a tin or pieces of wood to beat. Their lyrics are true and the rhythm is upbeat and African.
For the Staff Benda Bilili, Europe is a magical country that will mean they can sleep on mattresses with a roof over their heads, leaving the street behind for themselves and their families. This film is eye opening and uplifting and is being shown at the BFI Film festival this month. Look out for it if you can, as there won’t be too many films as raw and heart touching as this one.