Max is missing. His mother in Congo is worried and his family in Europe bewildered. His brother Kaze finds the video cassettes Max shot in Kinshasa and Lisbon, and sets out to find his sibling, who left without warning, "like a thief." Styled as an intimate diary, Kinshasa Palace roves from Paris to Congo and Portugal, eventually flying all the way to Cambodia in search of the elusive Max. But there is more than one mystery at play here. Beyond the answer to Max's whereabouts lies the more provocative question, Who is Kaze?
Director Zeka Laplaine plays Kaze; the anagram is an obvious clue. In his previous film, (Paris: XY), he played a character named Max. Kinshasa Palace playfully smudges the line between fiction and memoir, constructing an investigation of a family scattered across three continents. Kaze and Max's father is Portuguese, but sits in Lisbon reminiscing about his days in Congo (which he insists on calling Zaire). Their mother has stayed in Kinshasa and cannot imagine living in Europe where, as she says, you have to like solitude and are likely to die sooner.
Guided only by traces of Max, including a totemic bracelet and a red notebook he left behind, Kaze continues his pursuit. As he edges closer to answers, the scenes of his search are accompanied by spoken memories, Congolese pop music and the most melancholy of Portuguese songs. The film opens up once in Cambodia, where Max seems to be just around the corner.
It may be that semi-fiction is the ideal form for a film dealing with Congo. Real events can seem too extreme for drama and real people too circumspect for documentary. In employing a questing, hybrid form for Kinshasa Palace, Laplaine gives himself the freedom to superimpose memory and contested histories and to layer narrative and reflection. Laplaine taps deep emotions in the story of a family defined by its migrations; they are not so much scattered as projected across oceans.
- Cameron Bailey
(Toronto International Film Festival website)
A filmmaker travels across Paris, Lisbon, Kinshasa, and Cambodia in search of a missing brother in this provocative cinematic whatsit, a mix of family mystery, colonial exposé, and Chris Marker-style essay-poem. Filmmaker José Zeka Laplaine plays Kaze, a Paris-based Congolese immigrant looking for his missing brother Max, but finding only dreams and memories: of Congo in the 1970s, when Muhammad Ali was on the television and hope was in the air, or of their father, a white man now returned to Europe while their mother, as proud as ever, stayed in Kinshasa. Created out of family photos, stock footage, and home-video images of several generations of a family still caught between Europe and Africa, Kinshasa Palace refuses to say where reality ends and fiction begins; like its subject Max, it enjoys getting lost along the borders. Between the lines, though, lurk the ramifications of colonialism, family displacement, and the global African diaspora.
African Film Festival - BAM-PAF (University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive) 2009 | www.bampfa.berkeley.edu
Director: Zeka Laplaine
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo/France
Languages: French, Tshiluba, Portuguese, English, and Cambodian with English subtitles, Color, Beta SP
Time: 75 minutes
Film Types: Colour/Digital Betacam
Production Company : Les Histoires Weba
Producer: Michael Krumpe, Kapinga Wa M'bombo
Screenplay: Zeka Laplaine
Cinematographer: Octavio Espirito Santo
Editor: Agnès Contensou
Sound: Christophe Couget-Moreno
Music: Gilles Fournier
Principal Cast: Zeze Motta, Iris Laplaine, Gaspard Laplaine, Ambre Laplaine, Anna Maria Laplaine, Zeka Laplaine
Zeka Laplaine was born in Ilebo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He studied acting at the Parallax École d'Acteurs in Brussels, where he also wrote screenplays. He has acted in several films, including Abderrahmane Sissako's Bamako (06), also playing at this year's Festival. He has directed the short film Le Clandestin (96) and the features Macadam tribu (96), (Paris: XY) (01), Le Jardin de papa (04) and Kinshasa Palace (06).
FESTIVALS / AWARDS
2009 | African Film Festival - BAM-PAF (University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive) | BERKELEY, Ca, United States | January 25, 2009 - February 22, 2009 | www.bampfa.berkeley.edu
Toronto Film festival
* World Premiere