After some striking shorts, multitalented Baloji - musician, actor, costume designer, art director and cinematographer, among others - conquered Cannes this spring with his feature debut Augure. In this energetic and empathetic group portrait, he explores the weight of Congolese belief systems on the fate of four characters accused of being witches and sorcerers. Augure is an ensemble film that counts on the talent of, among others, Eliane Umuhire (Neptune Frost), celebrated theatre actress Yves-Marina Gnahoua and Marc Zinga (Tori et Lokita) as Koffi. The beginning of the film coincides with a return: Koffi decides to go back to his homeland to introduce his pregnant wife (Lucie Debay) to his family. More than an uplifting reunion, the meeting turns out to be a hellish experience - a fever dream that culminates in an exorcism scene reminiscent in pace and intensity of Jordan Peele's Get Out (2017).
Baloji's characters, carrying labels that exclude them from society, must confront traumas deeply rooted not only in their personal and family pasts, but also in Congo's wider, fragmented history. For instance, the steadfast belief in the occult of many of Augure's characters alludes to the populist ideology of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Congo between 1965 and 1997. It is no coincidence that witchcraft is a major source of inspiration in Baloji's work. In Swahili, his name first meant "man of science", but in colonial times it changed to "man of occult sciences/witchcraft". For the Belgian-Congolese filmmaker, his loaded name is both a burden and a driving force for a playful approach in his broad artistic work. Augure fully embodies that duality and reinforces it through its choices in terms of costumes, soundtrack and editing. Blending genres, Baloji creates a phantasmagorical scenes of mesmerising beauty that make Augure a more than memorable debut.
Eliane Umuhire, Lucie Debay, Marc Zinga, Yves Marina Ganhoua
Baloji, Thomas van Zuylen
Bertrand Conard, Bruno Tracq
Wrong Men, New Amsterdam Film Company, Tosala Films, Serendipity Films, Radical Media, Special Touch Studios, Sudu Connexion, Big World Cinema
Imagine Film Distribution
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belgium, South Africa, The Netherlands, Germany