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TORONTO 2018 Discovery

Review: The Mercy of the Jungle

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- TORONTO 2018: Joël Karekezi leads his protagonists into an anti-militarist odyssey, revisiting the troubled contemporary history of the Great Lakes region

Review: The Mercy of the Jungle
Stéphane Bak and Marc Zinga in The Mercy of the Jungle

The Mercy of the Jungle [+see also:
interview: Joël Karekezi
film profile
]
follows the journey of two Congolese and Rwandan soldiers as they travel through the jungle in Kivu, forced to join forces in order to survive the hostility of the forest and the madness of war. This is the second feature film by Joël Karekezi. In 2010, his short film The Pardon, which focused on the redemption of a young man who killed his best friend's family during the Rwandan genocide, was well received at various film festivals. The director’s latest feature film is based on the same characters, which is also doing the rounds and acting as a business card, allowing him to start work on his second feature film. The Mercy of the Jungle's screenplay was selected by the Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde at Cannes and won the Best Project Award at the Durban Film Festival Market, before being unveiled this week in the Discovery section at the 43rd Toronto Film Festival.

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The Mercy of the Jungle is a road movie on foot, through the jungle, following the wanderings of two soldiers who are complete opposites, a young Congolese recruit and a Rwandan war hero, forced to support each other in order to escape warring factions. In the heart of Kivu, they fight in a confusing war in full enemy territory, alone and without resources in the inextricable dense and hostile Congolese jungle. Hungry and thirsty, the two men struggle to keep their lucidity while they face the harshness of the jungle, and their own demons. 

At the heart of this mysterious war with a fantastic aura, the absurdity of this limitless war echoes the atrocities that were committed. The film recounts a dark period in the region’s recent history, the Second Congo war, which took place on the border between the DRC and Rwanda. The forest’s opacity and the protagonists’ loss of landmarks have both a physical and psychological effect. At what point do we no longer know who is fighting who, and why still fight?

The film stars the Belgian actor Marc Zinga – seen in Scouting for Zebras [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, James Bond (007 Spectrum [+see also:
trailer
making of
film profile
]
), The African Doctor [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, and more recently in Nos patriotes [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
– and Stéphane Bak, discovered on stage and then as a columnist at the Grand Journal at the age of 15, before appearing on screen in Once in a Lifetime [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, Team Spirit [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Heaven Will Wait [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and Alone [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. He has been chosen to participate in the festival's Rising Stars programme.

The Mercy of the Jungle was produced in Belgium by Aurélien Bodinaux – who also wrote the screenplay – for Neon Rouge and in Rwanda by the director and his company Karekezi Films, and co-produced in France by Tact Productions, and in Germany by Perfect Shot Films.

(Translated from French)

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