In Congo, filmmaking allows young people to dream

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In the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeing a movie means sitting in a makeshift street theater with poor sound and picture quality.

There was once a real movie theater, Cinema Virunga in the city of Goma. Built in the 1950s, when Congo was still a colony of Belgium, the cinema attracted people from hundreds of miles away. But the Rwandan civil war and genocide turned the building into a refugee center in the 1990s and after that, a series of civil wars left it vacant.

Petna Ndaliko grew up nearby and remembers sneaking into the theater as a boy to see a kung fu movie. The experience helped inspire him to become a filmmaker. Now he wants to make it possible for others to enjoy films in a safe environment and feel the same inspiration he did. He has raised $30,000 of the $500,000 needed to fully refurbish, rewire and recreate the cinema in its former image.

Ndaliko started a film school in Goma ten years ago to help students explore their passion for filmmaking and telling stories about life in Congo. For a generation that grew up amid civil war and conflict, expression through film not only helps them heal, but allows young people to dream of what their country can become, said student Yannick Chishibanji.

Despite their passion, costs and limited access to reliable electricity and wifi present constant obstacles for the students. Even showing their films means flying in an inflatable screen from the U.S. and setting it up outside.

Cherie, the executive director of Yole!Africa, said students’ lives change when they find the confidence to create their own films.

“It’s incredible to see what happens when they learn that they can tell their own story, and in their version of the story, they can be the hero,” she said.


 Vocab

refugee – a person who flees their homeland for a foreign land, usually in times of war or political upheaval

D.R.C. – Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation in Central Africa

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Democratic Republic of Congo located?
  2. How could a cinema help strengthen a community?
  3. What are some examples of public art in your community?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why does Petna Nhaliko believe cinema is important to a community?
  2. Besides money, what will it take for Cinema Virunga to open again one day?
  3. How do films allow people to share their thoughts on important issues in unique ways?


Source: Headline News

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