Domy+Ailucha: Ket Stuff! – Ico Costa (2021)

By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

A subjacent theme seems to have permeated the program of the latest edition of Cinéma du Réel: somehow the preoccupations on the effects of colonialism and capitalism and its aftermath seems to be manifesting deeply in the different sections of the festival. Arguably, not all the films in the programs address this issue head-on, but the latent marks of these particular elements in former colonized lands, and the situation in the different territories that are now within the geography post-pandemic/neoliberalist/late-stage capitalism countries, “late-developed” and “first world” ones, appear to be more tangible than ever. There is a necessity to address these stories, because behind this whole conglomerate of history-made-scar lies real human beings, attempting to somehow navigate the waters of the world they’ve received.

This is particularly evident in some films of the selection: Rafiki Fariala’s We, Students! (2022), which dwells in the life of a group of student friends in the Central African Republic; Domy+Ailucha: Ket Stuff! (2021), a multi-vocal film through the voices of Ailucha and Domy, two teenagers documenting their life in the town of Inhambane, Mozambique; or Urban Solutions (2022), a collective film on the colonialist past of Brazil through the eyes of a concierge and a security guard, which we’ll address later in a different piece.

For a short introduction, and before getting into the films, there’s an inescapable fact that can’t be overlooked and which feels a bit problematic, regarding the production of some of the films in the festival: while the fact that we’re able to hear the voices of people like Rafiki Fariala or Aliucha de Waldir it’s an important aspect to remark (it’s cinema that is coming from these regions, and particular to these voices), part of the supporting financing comes from the former countries that colonized those territories: France, or Portugal. In a way, are we witnessing a space of “reparation” of the aftermath of colonization in these territories?. Institutions like CNC or ICA , and these films in particular put as in a contingent limbo, where the former colonizers now collaborate in the initiatives of young filmmakers from these former colonies, now independent countries, to speak their truth, which is a result of the former colonial past. It’s a cyclical issue that makes the watching of these films a bit uneasy. (Specially if we take into account the easy path that much of cinema has taken through pornomisery or the “exoticazion” of the other.)  Coming from a non-western country and a former colony of Europe (Perú/Spain), there’s a certain mistrust that carries a baggage of centuries of atrocities committed in these places.

We, Students! – Rafiki Farala (2022)

Thankfully, both We, Students! and Domy+Ailucha: Ket Stuff!, come from filmmakers which have a) a comprehensive understanding of the problems and inherited past of their countries or b) are able to lend the camera to the mere protagonists of their stories. And this is the pivotal point where Farala’s and Costa’s films could be understood as a double-program: the mise-en-scène , feels radically different. In this sense, the use of the apparatus feels more or less staged, and while both films are documentaries, one of those two feels radically more like a free-form testimony of the life of its protagonists than the other, which feels more or less staged. This is not inherently a problem, since We, Students! is still rough at its edges and very much instills the viewer with the complexities of life that Rafiki Fariala is portraying in his film. And this is addressed in the same film, when the filmmaker is questioned by one of its protagonists. Paraphrasing: why are I’m here? is it because I’m part of your film, a character, or is it because you really care about me?, tells Nestor, who has failed the entrance exam to the University of Bangui, to Rafiki. And this questioning is also present within us, the spectators: at what point do we cease to watch a documentary or a staging?. Fariala’s method of filmmaking is unequivocally ambiguous: the placement of cameras in certain critic situations, and the freedom of takes in other takes set this question ablaze.

In Domy+Ailucha: Ket Stuff!, the liberty that Ico Costa allows to its characters pays off: the film feels freer, and although it wonders more as a free-structure, it feels inherently closer. By any means this is meant to say that one film is better than the other, but the multi-vocal point of view (“pass the camera around”) is certainly a plus for this film, although doubts also arise on the topic of autorship: was the film montaged and, finally, became a film in the editing room? Costa is intelligent enough to credit all hands-on camera at the ending, hinting at a collective effort that was put together by him. Themes of autorship and intervention become pivotal then, in the making of these two documentaries.

There are recurring themes, though. Collectiveness, and the inherent power of song and dance are fundamental through the development of the films, and are also important in the lives of these young folks. And both films effectively dodge the “exoticizing view” of their urban rituals: in both films, dance and song feels fundamentally real, and fundamentally carry around much weight in the life of these human beings. And both Costa and Fariala also document the life of their characters in all their complexity: they are regular, complex, flawed individuals going through life in all its inherent difficulties, and while the issue of belonging in countries where precarity seems to be a post-colonial condition, the issue is not presented in a way that feels in-your-face. And it very well could’ve been the case, with much justice. But both filmmakers center their intentions on what the aftermath of these situation in current times means for its characters, how they, in their flawed and imperfect life go through this reality in a life-affirming way. We, Students! and Domy+Ailucha: Ket Stuff! are complicated and challenging documentaries, but they’re not pessimistic, they blossom with hope without being blind to their situation. And the urban rituals, of dance and song, elevate some moments into really transcendent events of coexistence.

Because of their complexities, Fariala and Costa’s films are remarkable on their own, and are good catalysts of observation of the current situation in their lands.

International / French Selection


Directed by Rafiki Fariala
Editor: Xavier Sirven, Christian Möise Nzengue
Producer: Boris Lojnike, Daniele Incalcaterra, Elvis Sabin Ngaibino
Central African Republic, Democratic Republic Of The Congo, France
2022, 83 min


Directed by Ico Costa
Cinematography: Aliucha de Waldir, Domingos Marengula
Editing: Raúl Domingues
Sound: Tiago Matos
France, Portugal, 2021