Film Review: Maki’la

Machérie Ekwa Bahango’s Maki’la is an engaging drama. The film is an authentic portrait of a tragic situation.

Maki’la has been living hand to mouth in Kinshasa for a long time. She is married to a gang leader who spends all his time drinking and taking drugs. When Maki meets a young girl new to the streets, she reluctantly takes her under her wing…

Writer-director Machérie Ekwa Bahango’s debut feature is a proficient drama. The key aspect of Maki’la that really makes it stand out is the authenticity. Bahango’s film appears very realistic. The narrative, the characters, the setting; all these elements appear completely plausible.

Maki’la follows the story of a young woman living on the streets of the city. After establishing the protagonist and the setting, Bahango introduces Acha. The narrative focuses on a burgeoning friendship despite the harsh realities of the situation the young women find themselves in. There are various elements at play; the poverty, the alcohol and drug abuse, prostitution and sexual abuse. There is one scene in particular which is rather touching. Maki invites Acha to dream of a life away from poverty and worries. The dreams are simple, yet full of hope in the midst of dismay.

Maki is a compelling protagonist. At first coming across as a modern day Fagin, there is more to the protagonist as the film progresses. She is tough because she has to be, and blunt in her interactions. Behango has created a sympathetic lead character despite her abruptness. Viewers will care about both Maki and Acha; they are well-crafted enough to engage with. Behango’s film is bleak in its narrative, but shines a light on lives not often seen on screen.

There is a lot of handheld camera work in Maki’la, which adds to the appearance of realism. The use of out of focus shots does not always achieve a great effect. Amour Luzolo Lombi delivers a very convincing performance as the title character.

Maki’la is a promising debut from Machérie Ekwa Bahango. The filmmaker has a flair for realistic drama.

Maki’la is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.