TIME AND PLACE:
@ Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, London, W6 9RL
Entry: £7 (conc £5)
Deep in the heart of the Congolese rainforest live the Aka, a community which has survived with almost no contact with the outside world for generations. The film centres on the story of Akaya and Kengole, a young couple struggling to have a child while also revealing a portrait of the tight-knit community that surrounds them. The focus is a story about love, faith, and community, which is being threatened by the expansion of international tree logging companies.
Informed London talks to Director Linda Vastrik about the film and it’s rare and stunning insight into a unique society. Director Linda Vastrik lived with the Aka for extended periods of time, having worked on the film for seven years. She gained their friendship and was introduced to their mythological gods and dancing spirits.
1. How did you come up with the idea?
When I was a child I read a comic called “the Phantom” in which there was a white colonial character who rode around in tight pyjamas and struck people with a mark of death. The character had a friend “Guran” who had a much cooler personna; he was kind, loving and warm. When I was a kid I dreamt about becoming a friend of someone like Guran. It was very frustrating because he only said two things in each comic and it was usually something subserviant like”yes master”.
2. What inspired you to meet the Aka people?
When I was 25 years old I heard recordings from the Mbuti in the Ituri forest by Hugh Tracey.
These recordings gave me a strong sense of calm, trust and safety and a wonderful and curious feeling so strong that I started to cry. I decided, driven by my emotions, that those people knew something about life that I didn’t. I wanted to see them and become friends with them and I did so.
3. Why did you specifically decide to make a film about your experience with the Aka people?
They are the oldest people on earth, in the oldest forest on earth, with the oldest animals on earth. They are the source of human life and there is no place on earth more fantastic. Of course I was going to see them and bring my vision to the screen!
4. What was the biggest challenge when making the film?
Securing finance to enable the project.
5. How did you convince the Aka people to document their story?
I did not need to convince them because at first we learned to know each other. They love stories just like I do and they decided which stories they gave me.
6. Do you think that modern society can learn anything from the Aka people’s culture and traditions?
Yes, we have everything to learn from them. We are essentially primitive compared to them. The Aka people have chosen joy based on social, moral and spiritual development going back many thousands of years. In modern society we have chosen technological development so that we can build iPads. However, we cannot help our colleagues at work when they are experiencing human problems such as divorce or suicidal thoughts.
7. What is the one thing you would want people to take from the film?
That they experienced 90 minutes of something they did not know and hadn’t felt before.
8. What are you working on next?
A film about Sweden’s plans to become the world leader in the mining business.