Heard on CultureShift

Now Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre: From War Crimes in Congo to Iceland’s Brand of Dark Comedy

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Image credit: Dieudo Hamadi

The documentary “Downstream to Kinshasa” honors survivors of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Six-Day War in 2000, while “The County” continues Iceland’s streak of great dark comedies. Both are streaming now at the Detroit Film Theatre.

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CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM gives you a front row seat to the latest films playing at the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT).

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

Since 1974, DFT director Elliot Wilhelm has curated the films shown in this historic theater inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the DFT has continued to bring contemporary and classic world cinema from around the globe to patrons virtually via their website.

Now Playing: “Downstream to Kinshasa”

Over six days in June 2000, the Congolese city of Kisangani was the scene of deadly violence between the Ugandan and Rwandan armies. More than 10,000 shells exploded, killing thousands and injuring thousands more. Since then, victims of that six-day war have fought for recognition and compensation. Though Uganda was found guilty of committing war crimes by the International Court of Justice, the victims of the violence remain uncompensated decades later. Finally, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

In the first Congolese film to become an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the country’s official submission to the Academy Awards, acclaimed director Dieudo Hamadi (“Mama Colonel”) captures their long journey down the Congo River to seek justice in the capital city of Kinshasa, where this extraordinary documentary concludes with a complexity that can only be achieved through unblinking honesty. In Swahili and Lingala with English subtitles. (89 minutes) 

Now Playing: “The County”

After the global success of his Cannes prize winner “Rams,” Icelandic director Grímur Hákonarson returns to his homeland with another sly, humanist fable. Set in a small Icelandic farming community, “The County” tells the story of Inga (the amazing Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir in a star-making performance), a middle-aged dairy farmer who’s fed up with the area’s all-powerful local cooperative.

Inga tries to convince her neighbors to join her in rising up against their corrupt overlords, but the resistance she encounters forces her to turn her anger on the community’s dependent loyalty to this monopolistic, dominant enterprise. Before long, Inga’s public stance makes her a pariah, whereupon the film’s ingenious, darkly funny, deeply involving tightrope walk takes shape: How will Inga persuade her dispirited community to back her up, while retaining a semblance of sanity?

Will her outrageous stunts succeed in dismantling the local milk mafia, or simply get her locked up — or worse? Bitterly funny and affecting with charm to spare, “The County” reveals itself as a smart, timely political allegory set ironically against the grandeur of a spectacular Nordic landscape. In Icelandic with English subtitles. (92 minutes) 

Detroit Film Theatre Director Elliot Wilhelm contributed to this web post.

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