Bram Van Paesschen
Belgium | 2011 | 77 min
Languages : French, Chinese, Swahili
Subtitle : English
Lao Yang is Chinese. Eddy is Congolese and speaks fluent Mandarin. The pair work for a company commissioned to build a road between Kolwesi and Lubumbashi, capital of the Katanga province. Following the construction work, Bram Van Paesschen captures with impish virtuosity the sometimes cruel comedy of relations between new colonizers and former colonized.
“Wherever there are people, expect problems”: this Swahili proverb was the title of Bram Van Paesschen’s previous film (Pale Peko Bantu Mambo Ayikosake, VdR 2009), which focused on illegal diggers mining veins of copper and cobalt in Katanga (former “Belgian” Congo). These raw materials – the curse of this country – are of great interest to the Chinese, who have struck a bargain with the central government: mineral ore for infrastructure. This is the background to Empire of Dust. Eddy, a native of Kinshasa, speaks fluent Mandarin and uses this language to present the “theatre of operations”: the construction of a road between Kolwezi and the Katangan capital, Lubumbashi, by a Chinese company, which also employs Lao Yang. The two men embody the relationship between the new empire builders and their Congolese “subjects”. The Chinaman tries to understand the Congolese mentality, (quite rightly) mistrustful of the exchanges between his interpreter employee and the local operators. Van Paesschen’s camera gives us a brilliant picture of this master-slave dialectic being played out in the dust of Katanga.
Translation BMP Translations