Living rough, not so hakuna matata

And suddenly you are child, you get thrown out of the house and need to survive in the busy streets of Kinshasa. What would you do?

An all-round story

After his project Kinshasa Kids, Marc-Henri Wajnberg continues to sketch portraits of children that live rough on the streets of Kinshasa. Children accused of being shegues, or witches. With the support of VAF, Marc takes the story a step further in Kinshasa Now with his decision to shoot the whole movie in 360. We follow the story of Mika, Chance, Vainqueur, David and Patrick. Five children of the streets, cast aside by their own family and shunned by society. And nothing remains unseen.

Of course, we at VC Studios would not wish on anyone to get forced out of their home. What do we support? A good story. So, when Wajnbrosse productions and their co-producer Wim Forceville knocked on our door, we did not hesitate a second. We sent out Jimi Abidts to reinforce Wim and a local film crew during the production process. Together with Wim, Jimi took care of the filming and the two of them were also responsible for the visual outlook of the film. In addition, VC Studios took on the challenge of turning a heap of 360 footage into a stirring movie.

Filming without a place to hide

Sometimes Wim, Jimi and a local film crew had to go above and beyond to weed out all the stress and hassle the challenge of shooting in 360 in Kinshasa can cause. For example, shooting in 360 means you can’t use any lights to brighten up a dark place. More often than not, you do not have the space you need. The rooms are too small, the market place is crowded and the streets are bustling with activity.

Technical challenges were not the only things our crew had to overcome during filming. They had to face some hectic situations, deal with cultural differences or grapple with acute, practical problems. For example, one of your child actors ran away and you have to continue shooting without him.

And the workday is not over yet after the magic words “It’s a wrap.” Because batteries need charging, you need to save your footage, … Add to that the fact that the electricity can fall out anytime and you can imagine why Wim and Jimi did not always sleep that well at night.

Jimmy (left) and Wim (right) when there are no technical or practical issues

Editing 360 video, not for the faint-hearted

The post-production process brought its own challenges. Audio and video had to be synced. Then we had to stabilise and stitch the 360 footage filmed on different 360 cameras. On top of fiddly jobs like fixing and rotoscoping the footage, we also had to paint out the Nadir and artefacts. It was only after we got all those tasks out of the way, that the director could start to build his story. But editing a 360 video isn’t a walk in the park either. Because where do you cut? There is something going on everywhere, especially in Kinshasa. Grading everything also took up some time. But not as much as rendering the final version in 7K. Needless to say, that some of our computers were not that happy with us.

But it was worth it, because, in the end, two versions were made. The 15-minute version was, amongst others, screened by Unicef. Not only to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Child Rights Convention, but also to draw attention to the fact that there is still a lot of improvement possible. The linear 25-minute version gets submitted to festivals. Sadly, the plan to turn the 360 footage into an interactive VR film did not come to fruition. Yet. Because there are some plans for the future. To be continued.

Taking it easy is not always easy

Pole pole, meaning ‘take it easy’, it was a luxury we did know during the making of this film. But for us, the worrying was over once the final film was up the screen. Okay, we have other projects with their own challenges, but you know what we are trying to say. For people living rough, however, the worrying never stops. So what about the five children that we followed, that we got to know, that we came to love? Well, Marc would not just leave them to their own devices after he left and actively worked to get them reintegrated into society.

So, yes, the intense shooting and post-production process stood in stark contrast to the pole pole that Africa is usually known for. But if we were given the choice, we would do it again immediately. Not just because we are always up for a new adventure, but also because protecting children’s rights should concern us all.