Heart of Africa
TYPE: Hybrid Feature
The central part of the Heart of Africa project is a narrative film focusing on peace building between people of different tribes (Luba and Katanga) and religions. In our location scouting, we recognized that we would need to enlarge the project in order to make it accessible to the Congolese people. Consequently, we recognized that FILMING any of our activities (including humanitarian ones) would give us the power to transport knowledge and skills far beyond the main cities of the DR-C and into all areas of the country, and all French-speaking countries in Africa. We recognized that we could provide essential knowledge through "special features."
Because there are no cinemas in the DR-C, we will include simple, replicable cinema construction (frames and screens or even sheets) as part of our equipment. We will be able to take our film, its special features (including a Reading-Rainbow type of educational program), and everything we need to broadcast it into the most rural city of the DR-C. It has always been our intention to premiere the film in Kinshasa.
Phase 1: Humanitarian, film-related programs in connection with the South African film team "Out of Africa" and work with VODOCOM (media station in the DR-C), a special feature for every showing of "Heart of Africa." This program a short film on book creation. If we can help the people access books, including those they themselves create, and become familliar with the COMMUNAL experience a film can offer, we can inspire their imagination and resilience.
Phase 2: The central film shows Evangelical preachers, Catholic nuns, and Muslim peace builders working together to fortify an orphanage. Two central figures are Mormon missionaries, one white and one black. Both must confront their own pasts and the pasts of their belief systems. The Congolese missionary is a former revolutionary, and the American missionary a recovering alcoholic who is largely unaware of the Mormon past in racial issues--though he quickly learns of it. If these characters fail to unite to re-build the orphanage, children will die when the rains and the inevitable mosquitoes come. As their efforts continue, cultural conflicts arise and explode. The main character, from the Luba tribe, has (so he thinks) killed a young woman from an "enemy" tribe (Katanga), and is certain that her boyfriend is trying to kill him. He learns by the end that this perceived enemy is not the threat.. It's someone close to him, whom he had never suspected.
Dr. King said in his Nobel Prize speech: "In spite of spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers."
We started our project under IFP sponsorship several years ago, and have come a long ways towards production. In the process, however, we have seen that our access to technology must not be used simply to make a film and hope that it succeeds in America, but to share the technology itself, and the art of film itself, in helping the people of the Congo and elsewhere to recognize that they own their individual stories and should tell them, and that technology matters only insofar as it can help the citizens of the world live "together as brothers" and sisters--each nation equal in its access to the tools which facilitate growth and further peace.
Margaret Blair Young - Co-Director
Young has written and co-produced two award winning documentaries, and was the project director for a third. She was awarded Utah's "Best in State" medal for the body of her writing, and has written books and academic articles about African Americans in the 19th century west, and about Africa, the DR-Congo in particular.
Darius Aidan Gray - Production Staff Head
Darius Aidan Gray is a nationally famous lecturer, journalist, and filmmaker. He has filmed in Africa for UNICEF and for Senator Frank Moss. Originally a journalist/reporter for KSL television, he is now a recognized scholar in race issues in Mormonism, the United States, and Africa. He is also a respected genealogist and, with Marie Taylor, spearheaded the Freedman Bank Record data base, which made African American ancestry accessible to over four million descendants of former slaves. He and Margaret Young co-authored three books about blacks in the west, and made two documentaries, one of which has shown on various PBS stations and is under contract with the Documentary Channel.
Tshoper Kabambi - Filmographjer
Tshoper Kabambi, a resident of Kinshasa, is an award-winning filmmaker, having won a prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival. As a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo, he continues to make films, but has no distribution. He will be our primary filmographer for the first two parts of the Heart of Africa project.
Sterling Van Wagenen - Director of the central film
Van Wagenen was one of the Founders of the Sundance Film Festival and has directed, produced or acted in too many films to list, including some which have won academy awards.
Reed Smoot - Director of Photography
Smoot is a much sought-after cinematographer who has made hundreds of films, the most recent ones as IMAX films.
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UPDATE - December 08, 2014
We have been to the DR-Congo twice We have recognized that the project must be enlarged to include a simple cinema with a screen and a projector as part of our equipment, as there is no cinema in the DR-Congo. We are also working on ways of making this film accessible to all people in French-speaking Africa through some educational projects. We now foresee completion of the entire project, including its ancillary supports, in late 2018.
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