35mm. L.: 1340 m. D.: 49’ a 24 f/s.
The visually stunning films selected by the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique were made between 1926 and 1938. They present various aspects of the social and economic life of the Belgian Congo, such as the operation of a workers recruitment centre, the infrastructure of the railways and river transport as well as the long voyage organized by certain Italian “explorers”. The latter belongs to a genre particularly appreciated at the time, which depicted a more or less adventurous voyage as filmed by the explorers themselves.
Three of the films presented are by the pioneer of Belgian colonial cinema Ernest Genval, most of whose work is unfortunately lost. A producer of advertising films, he travelled to the Belgian Congo in 1924 and fell under its spell. Upon his return he established relations with business circles and was commissioned to make a series of shorts in order to show the country’s conditions and stimulate investments. In 1927 he made a long documentary, Le Congo qui s’éveille, distributed by Gaumont-Metro-Goldwyn, which was a celebration of Belgian achievements in the Congolese colony. After the financial success of this film, Genval returned to the Congo on several occasions to produce various films of industrial and colonial propaganda.
Four of the films presented share something in common: they were all destined for release in Belgian cinemas. The film realised by the two Italian travellers was distributed by the Université Cinégraphique in 1929 and likewise Genval’s shorts were also distributed in the country’s cinemas.
Gabrielle Claes – Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique