Benda Bilili!

Directed by Florent de la Tullaye & Renaud Barret
  • France
  • 2010

They should top the list of life’s losers. In the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Papa Ricky and his mates are victims of childhood polio, getting about in makeshift wheelchairs and sleeping rough with their families on the street at
night. They don’t have much in earthly possessions but they do have talent.

From their challenging backgrounds; their love of music brings them together. As members of Staff Benda Bilili, they rehearse their bluesy, wondrous songs about overcoming the trials of life in the relative quiet of the Kinshasha zoo. One day they are discovered by French film-makers Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye, who are blown away by their talent. They introduce them to talented teenager Roger, who survives on the streets with the help of an instrument made with a tin can and a string and who soon becomes the band’s ‘little soloist’.

Together, the band avoids the pitfalls of the street, stay united and eventually, meet with international success. The five-year struggle to release an album and tour Europe forms the narrative of this unforgettable, tremendously moving film, destined to become a music doc classic.

Sheffield Documentary Festival

“This is a remarkable documentary and a music film that is utterly exceptional.”
The Telegraph