Viva Riva!

This was the official website for the 2011 film, Viva Riva!, written and directed by Djo Munga.
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Director: Djo Tunda Wa Munga
MPAA Rating: R (for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, brutal violence, language and some drug use)
Starring: Patscha BayManie MaloneHoji FortunaMarlene LongageDiplome AmekindraAlex Herabo


Viva Riva! - Official Trailer

Riva is a small time operator who has just returned to his hometown of Kinshasa, Congo after a decade away with a major score: a fortune in hijacked gasoline. Wads of cash in hand and out for a good time, Riva is soon entranced by beautiful night club denizen Nora, the kept woman of a local gangster. Into the mix comes an Angolan crime lord relentlessly seeking the return of his stolen shipment of gasoline. Director Djo Tunda Wa Munga's Kinshasa is a seductively vibrant, lawless, fuel-starved sprawl of shantytowns, gated villas, bordellos and nightclubs and Riva is its perfect embodiment.



Rotten Tomatoes Critics Reviews

Viva Riva!

Viva Riva! Movie Review



August 18, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/4
Roger Ebert Chicago Sun-Times Top Critic

"Viva Riva!" is the first feature I've seen from the Congo, and the last one I would have expected: A slick, exciting, well-made crime thriller, dripping with atmosphere. The plot would be at home in many countries, but the African locations are a gripping bonus here. You might learn more about Congo from this film than in a documentary, and you'd probably have more fun.

The hero is a good-bad guy named Riva (Patsha Bay Mukana), a charming, fast-thinking con man who has stolen a truckload of gasoline from some crooks in Angola and plans to resell it for a small fortune in Kinshasa. This detail is itself revealing. Some thrillers involve fortunes in gold or diamonds; the poverty and shortages in Congo make a truckload of fuel drums worth a fortune.

Riva is not a cautious thief. He's a partying ladies' man, whose objective in getting money is to spend it. He plans to hold the petrol off the market as gas prices grow higher, and in the meantime, plunges head-first into a shadow world of bars, brothels, conspirators and gangsters. It is his fate to fall head over heels with Nora (Manie Malone), the mistress of a local crime lord, who only perhaps can be trusted. Oh, she likes him well enough. She also likes staying alive.

Soon Riva is being pursued by the gangster's men and also by some very angry Angolans who want their gasoline back. The film's writer-director, Djo Tunda Wa Munga, ingeniously entwines this generic plot with a riot of local atmosphere: street life, homes, dance clubs, whorehouses, warehouses, cops and robbers, connivers and stoolies, torture and mayhem. It is a true achievement, I suppose, to make a Congolese feature that is the rival or superior of any hard-boiled Western film.

I suppose this is a film noir. By centering itself on the mean streets, a noir often records more about a time and place than a studio-centered mainstream drama. Consider that our images of postwar Vienna and London may largely be inspired by "The Third Man" and "Night and the City." This film moves effortlessly through its locations. It knows its way around. It makes no particular point of poverty, corruption and the seller's markets created by shortages. It doesn't even bother to point out the irony that the Democratic Republic of the Congo needs fuel that exists in abundance in nearby Nigeria.

The actors all feel like seasoned professionals, assured and persuasive. This is in no sense a bargain-basement production; it's as if a Congolese cinema springs full-blown before our eyes; this is apparently Djo Tunda Wa Munga's first film, but he knows what he's doing.

Apart from its other qualities, "Viva Riva!" has an unconscious authenticity. When big Hollywood stars are surrounded by CGI effects, we're always thinking, "action movie." When new faces are filmed in real places, there is a persuasiveness that's impossible to contrive. The movie offers the rare pleasure of a film that creates its own world, unfamiliar to us but feeling real. It's like a shot in the arm for the action genre.


Viva Riva!

Crime along the Congo

July 7, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4
Ty Burr Boston Globe Top Critic

Viva Riva!’’ has its cake and eats it, too. Shoots it to pieces, actually. The first film from the Democratic Republic of Congo to make it to these shores is a slick, propulsive crime drama whose influences include rap videos, the 1972 cult classic “The Harder They Come,’’ and every Warner Brothers gangster movie ever made. Writer-director Djo Tunda Wa Munga deplores the corruption, gunplay, and oversexed misogyny plaguing his country - and he’s going to show you as much of it as possible before the end credits roll.

Nothing new there. The history of entertainment is in large part a history of letting audiences vicariously revel in behavior they condemn on the drive home. It helps immeasurably, too, that the title character of “Viva Riva!’’ is a likable rascal - a country boy with the confidence and nerve to outfox the city slickers or die trying.

The movie takes place against a backdrop of near-complete governmental collapse. Gas shortages have brought the capital city of Kinshasa to a standstill; not even the crime lords can fill up their limousines. Riva (Patsha Bay) arrives in town with a truck full of fuel barrels hijacked from an Angolan gangster and immediately upends the balance of power.

Everyone wants a piece of him or his ill-gotten gas. The Angolan gangster, Cesar (Hoji Fortuna), arrives in-country wearing a crisp white suit and tailed by two thugs; he’s as creatively sadistic as any blaxploitation baddie but prefers to hire a lady army officer (Marlene Longange) to ferret out Riva. She becomes, next to the hero, the film’s most sympathetic figure, trying to negotiate a corrupt society with as little moral damage to herself as possible. It’s an impossible task and all the more poignant for it.

As the sharks circle, Riva readies his deal and tries to woo Nora (Manie Malone), the proud, secretly desolate moll of local crime kingpin Azor (Diplome Amekindra). The kid doesn’t stand a chance until, of course, he charms his way into her heart and gets her to open up about her privileged background. Her character makes no sense whatsoever, but the Ivory Coast-born Malone is a discovery: a cool beauty with real movie-star wattage.

The movie’s as violent as you’d expect but a lot more sexual; scenes of the army officer’s dalliance with her girlfriend and Riva’s seduction of Nora are filmed with the frankness of soft-core porn. Shot in vibrant colors that run together in the heat and goosed by the insistently sweet guitar pop known as soukous, “Viva Riva!’’ courses through a country where everyone’s a hustler. No one is untarnished - not the police chief who can be bought, the priest who sees Riva’s petrol as a source of charitable income, or Riva’s old friend J.M. (Alex Herabo), who dumps his wife and children as soon as he gets a taste of the criminal life.

In this upside-down landscape, the honorable ones are either those, like Riva, who cheerily admit their amorality or observers like a young boy who sees the damage done by greed and who the movie implies is the Congo’s only hope for the future. Until then, there are bad men to shoot and pliant women to bed.



Spotlight on social issues boosts Congolese crime saga.

October 17, 2011 |
Simon Foster

Riva is an operator, a man with charm and ambition in equal measure. Kinshasa is an inviting place. With petrol in short supply in DRC's capital, he and his sidekick pursue a plot to get hold of a secret cache – barrels of fuel they can sell for a huge profit.

Although a tad over-reliant on B-thriller tropes, Djo Munga’s Viva Riva! has a compelling energy that overshadows its macho posturing and slavering adherence to sordid sex and violence. The film looks and feels like another Pulp Fiction clone at times, but what emerges is a far more thoughtful work that makes important (and surprisingly) salient points about the humanistic struggles of developing countries.

Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa, debutant writer/director Munga’s film pits the super cocky small-time crim Riva (Patsha Bay) against his former boss, ruthless Angolan gangster César (Hoji Fortuna). Hoping to score big and set up his own cartel, Riva steals several barrels of gasoline from César and seeks to unload them at an inflated price on the fuel-starved streets of his hometown. Hitting the clubs on his first night home, Riva falls for the glamourous Nora (Manie Malone), fiery moll of local badass Azor (Diplome Amekindra), and soon he’s fleeing both the jealous psychopath’s henchmen as well as César, who’s fast closing in on him.

Superficially, this bullets-and-babes opus merely proves that the Congolese film industry can crank out crime melodramas that could cut it in most film markets around the world. Of course, Viva Riva! achieves this on a comparably lean budget, but the film’s virtues don’t come from its competent aesthetic qualities, nor from its episodic plotting and reliance on nudity and point-blank bullet hits. (A particularly gruesome head shot represents one of many unpleasant moments.)

Viva Riva! finds its strongest footing in its examination of the social realities and racial tensions that exists in the DRC. Munga bolsters the depth of his characters with hot-button sociological factors: the class divide that exists within the Congolese population (Nora refuses to touch Riva, referring to him as a 'tribesman"; he equates her firm breasts with social standing, sick as he is of the 'saggy" tribes women); the brutal animosity between the DRC and Angola (César and his men refer to all Congolese as 'dirty niggers"); and the inherent corruption within the army and police forces of the Republic.

It’s these elements that lift Viva Riva! above conventional crime drama; one senses that Munga, coming from a documentary background, had far more on his mind than convincing international sales agents that his sexy, blood-splattered thriller would travel beyond its domestic audience. Backed by three charismatic lead performances and a vivid sense of atmosphere, the filmmaker has crafted a potent slice of social commentary within a shoot-'em-up setting.