Epic FAIL–or is it?
We spent much of today (July 12, 2017) trying to get a visa for Tshoper Kabambi to go to the Durban International Film Festival, which has accepted one of his films. His flight and his hotel were already paid for by some people who are aware of his remarkable talent. We did NOT succeed. The reason? He has to prove to the embassy that he has enough money to support himself in South Africa. Therefore, he has to show the past three months’ activity of his bank account. Consider that the Congolese franc loses value almost daily, and that Colgolese are not allowed to get USD from an ATM. He has nothing in his bank account. We supplied everything which the embassy requested, but the enormous prejudice against Congolese people–because some have remained in South Africa–has kept him from accepting the trip which was already covered.
So, what do we do now? Well, we tell his story. This is phase one. I want all of my friends to know about what Tshoper is doing–without any salary, but with funds he makes by arranging things for foreigners who visit the DR-C (including a German film team who just completed filming an internet series called Kinshasa Collection.) They paid him well–$1,000. for three weeks–which is good in the DR-C. With the money, he purchased a microphone for his sound system. He paid his rent. He paid for his wife’s education. He bought food for his family–not just his wife and daughter, but other family members who live with him. However, he does not put money into a bank account. Think about it. Would you? I will write more about Tshoper because I want everyone to go with us on this unpredictable journey. I guarantee that it ends splendidly. I can’t predict what the ending will be (and much of it will undoubtedly come after I have finished my mortal sojourn), but I know that his passion and his work will lift the sights of the entire DR-Congo.
It seemed to me that the embassy was charged to find creative ways to say no. Reminds me of the “Just Say No” campaign–but it’s not funny in the least. Regardless of our explanation that his film equipment comprises his wealth and that all of his expenses to the festival were paid, there was a one-line response, which came in various iterations, regardless of our trying to explain the context. The line: “Where’s the money?”
So, there is one actor hired to say this particular line. He is put into various plays but never really understands the plot, only his own line. For example, this:
Juliet: Mine ears have not yet drunk a hundred words of thy tongue’s utterance, yet I know the sound. Art thou not Romeo?
(ONE-LINE ACTOR ENTERS)
Actor: Where’s the money?
Juliet: I said, art thou not Romeo?
Romeo: Call me but love and I’ll be new-baptized! Henceforth, I never will be Romeo!
Actor: Where’s the money?
Romeo: I said, I never shall be Romeo.
Etc. No mercy, not even any real hearing. Dell was marvelously diplomatic. He said, “Has there ever been an exception to this rule?”
The answer was vague, followed by, “Where’s the money?”
The seriousness of this simple example cannot be overstated. MONEY is the predominant language of the DR-C, and many would-have-been artists have left that pursuit because of the reminders that they aren’t making much money. When one of them, like Tshoper, does magnificent work, trains and helps others (including school children and orphanages–all without charge), he is kept from going to a festival which has invited him because he can’t prove that he has enough money.
I am including a photo of the letter of denial. The denial itself is in handwriting. Please put yourself in this young man’s place and IMAGINE how it would feel. You filmmakers among my friends, imagine that he is you. Because he is, of course. We are one another. We must be.