By Brett JohnsonThe BVX

‘Viva Riva!’, a high-octane crime thriller set in the Congo during a fuel crisis, is the first feature film from the country in 25 years. And it’s a riveting, beautifully shot portrait of a country entangled in a violent web of corruption and desperation.

Riva, the charismatic title character played by Patsha Bay Mukuna, returns to his native Congo after a ten year absence with a stolen shipment of fuel and a cocky sense of newfound wealth. But bloodthirsty gangsters, who are bent on reclaiming their property, are hot on his trail. What unfolds is a compelling tale of a developing country entangled in corruption and sometimes brutal violence.

The film, which just won Best African Movie at this year’s MTV Movie Awards, manages to combine the similar pulsating energy of Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’s ‘City of God’ with a realistic grasp of underworld pathology that recalls Hype Willams’ debut, ‘Belly’.

“My challenge was to push to the limit as far as possible, in terms of being true to the society,” said first-time director Djo Tunda wa Munga (above center, with actors). “Which means talking about the real issues, the prostitution, the sexuality and also the violence.” We chatted with Munga recently about the challenges and triumphs of making a film (which opens in theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Portland on June 10) set in his native country.[Read More]