The Project

Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the third-largest city in Africa. Almost ten million people live here and they number among the poorest inhabitants on this planet. Kinshasa is the home of Central Africa’s one and only symphony orchestra

Two hundred orchestral musicians are playing Beethoven’s Ninth – Freude schöner Götterfunken. A power cut strikes just a few bars before the last movement. Problems like this are the least of the worries facing the only symphony orchestra in the Congo. In the 15 years of its existence, the musicians have survived two putsches, various crises and a war. But concentration on the music and hopes for a better future keep them going. Kinshasa Symphony is a study of people in one of the world’s most chaotic cities doing their best to maintain one of the most complex systems of joint human endeavour: a symphony orchestra. The film is about the Congo, the people in Kinshasa and the power of music.

One of the musicians is Albert Matubanza. He is a guitarist, he cannot play the violin or the cello. But he has coached many of the string players, helping them to master their instruments and understand the music. At present he is making a new double bass for the orchestra. In the meantime, other craftsmen in the band have assembled a collection of frequently self-invented and self-made tools enabling them to repair anything that goes wrong with the instruments. Both the men and the women make their own suits and dresses to wear at public performances, they procure the sheet music required and make sure the children are supervised during the long evening rehearsals.

Most members of the orchestra are self-taught amateurs. Even for those fortunate enough to have vocational qualifications and a more or less regular job, everyday life in this megacity (population 8 million) is a battle for survival. For many the working day begins at 6 a.m., earlier still for those who cannot afford public transport and have to walk miles to get to work. But the rehearsals go on until well into the night – and there are rehearsals almost every day.

Joséphine Nsemba has to get up at 5 a.m. Then she sets off to sell omelettes at Kinshasa’s biggest market. Her monthly income is just enough to pay the rent. Business is tough because cheap eggs imported from Brazil and the Netherlands are pulling the prices down. When work is over, she goes straight to rehearsal. She was one of Albert’s first cello pupils. Now they are married. Her eight-year-old son Armand has been ill for a long time. Despite the enormous expense involved, Albert and Joséphine finally decide in favour of an operation.

Joseph Masunda Lutete is an electrician and hairdresser. In the orchestra he plays the viola and looks after the lighting. On the by no means rare occasions when the lights suddenly go out during rehearsals, Joseph is the man of the moment. In a bid for independence from the vagaries of the electricity supply in Kinshasa, he has bought a long-life battery-operated shaver for his hairdressing salon. Flautist Nathalie Bahati is looking for a new apartment for herself and her little son. Not an easy job in a teeming city like Kinshasa if you don’t have much money to spare.

Armand Diangienda is the conductor and founder of the orchestra. The trained pilot is the grandson of Simon Kimbangu, a martyr much revered in the Congo for his spirited opposition to the Belgian colonists and for the establishment of the Kimbanguist religion named after him. Armand’s grandfather entrusted him with the mission of founding an orchestra. Initially, a few dozen enthusiasts shared the few instruments the orchestra had at its disposal. To ensure that everyone had a turn, the rehearsals took place in several shifts. Today there are two hundred musicians on stage when the “Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste” gives one of its concerts.

The orchestra is planning a major open-air concert to mark the anniversary of independence for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An audience of several thousand is expected to attend. Very few of them have any experience of classical music. The programme includes Beethoven’s Ninth, Orff’s Carmina Burana and works by Dvorak and Verdi. Armand Diangienda is fully aware that the trickier passages do not sound very convincing yet. The choir is having trouble getting the notes right and pronouncing the German text. And the day of the concert is getting closer all the time …



First broadcasting of Kinshasa Symphony at WDR (West German Television) on 7. August 2012, 22h30

Winner of a golden HUGO at the 48th Chigago TV Festival Hugo Awards.

Kinshasa Symphony
is nominated in the category „Information & Culture/Special“ for the German TV Grimme-Award 2012.

Winners of International "Gold Panda" Awards for Documentary at the "11th Sichuan TV Festival": Kinshasa Symphony receives GRAND PRIZE and prize for BEST DIRECTOR!

Finally! .. the instruments that had been collected for the orchestra since the theatrical release in Germany have finally arrived in Kinshasa! A big thanks to all the donors! Pictures here

AWARD NEWS: Best Arts in Film Documetary - Feature International @ Santa Rosa Int. Film Festival!

screening at the opening ceremony of the "German Film Week" in Bujumbura, Burundi @ 7pm (19h) - with Martin Baer and Pascal Capitolin!

Theatrical release in France! ! !

The children of an elementary school in Berlin-Steglitz, "Grundschule am Insulaner", have collected 600€ to support the music school project of the orchestra!

Best Documentary
at the 11th Image et Vie Film Festival in Dakar, Sénégal!

Theatrical release in Austria on May, 20th!

... and another Audience Award! This time in Pessac/France at Palmarés-Du Festival de cinéma jeune public-Les Toiles Filantes!

Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, USA!

Kinshasa Symphony wins two awards at the 25th Bolzano Film Festival:"Best Documentary" and Audience Award!

Kinshasa Symphony has won two more awards! The World Gold Medal at the New York Festival in the category documentaries as well as the Award for the Best Artistic Achievement from the city of Potsdam.

Twitter News from RiverRun Film Festival:
"Met a woman who drove up from Atlanta (530 km distance) with her daughter just to watch "Kinshasa Symphony" today!"

Theatrical release in France in September!

Beautiful segment about Kinshasa Symphony on NYC's classical music station WQXR.

Armand Diangienda will be attending 2 festivals in the US in April: The AFF in NY and RiverRun Int. Film Festival in Winston-Salem!!!

Kinshasa Symphony has won the Jury Award at the 2011 Salem Film Fest!

Kinshasa Symphony is nominated for the GERMAN FILM AWARD 2011!

Kinshasa Symphony is preselected for the German film award Lola.

Theatrical release in Belgium January 2011!

CMJ Music&Film Festival, New York, announces Kinshasa Symphony as "Best Documentary" in the Audience Poll!

WDR musicians back from Kinshasa! Trip and work with the Orchestra a huge success!

Closing Film at the European Film Festival in Göttingen/Germany. Sold out again!

Two sold out screenings at the EthnoFilmFest in Munich and apparently a record in visitors and positive feedback!

Screening at Free Zone Festival in Belgrade: "The screening was really great. Our audience loved the film. I can say that Kinshasa Symphony was one of the hit films at Free zone."

November 2010: Theatrical Release in Switzerland!

"Special Jury Mention" for creative dramatic illustration of the survival topic at "Flahertiana" Film Festival in Perm, Russia!

"VIFF Most Popular Nonfiction Film Award" in Vancouver!

Kinshasa Symphony is the Audience Favourite at the "10th Festival des Deutschen Films" in Buenos Aires!

Our first need at betterplace.org has been completed. Thanks to everyone for the donations and support!

Great cinema release! Kinshasa Symphony in 6th place at this week's Arthouse-Movie-Charts!

"Kinshasa Symphony...the best musical documentary since Rhythm is it!" - Deutschlandradio

Theatrical Release in Germany

Now donations for the orchestra possible at betterplace.org!

"Kinshasa Symphony" is nominated for the Erasmus EuroMedia Awards 2010.

The 6th Jecheon International Music & Film Festival presents the Grand Prize to "Kinshasa Symphony" from the International Competition section, "World Music Film Today".

Rhode Island Int. Film Festival 2010:
Grand Prize "Best Cinematography"
goes to "Kinshasa Symphony"
The 2010 Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) announced the winners in this year’s film competition at its annual Awards Ceremony in downtown Providence, RI. The festival ran August 10th-15th and showcased over 200 cinematic works, including 35 World and 23 US/North American Premieres. The films were selected from a record entry base of over 4200 international submissions.

Filmmusik verbindet die Festivals in aller Welt: bei den Oberaudorfer Musikfilmtagen spielt die Jugendblaskapelle Filmmusikklassiker - zur Eroeffnung des Jecheon International Music & Film Festivals in Korea gibt es ebenfalls Filmmusik, diesmal gespielt auf koreanischen Saiteninstrumenten.
Beide Festivals sind noch jung. Beide sind ausgesprochen gastfreundlich und wunderbar musikorientiert. Fantastisch, dass beide Kinshasa Symphony zeigen! In Bayern mit deutschen Untertiteln, in Jecheon mit koreanischen.

Kinshasa Symphony erhält eine "Lobende Erwähnung" beim Phoenix-Dokumentarfilmpreis 2010. >>>

Pascal Capitolin stellt Kinshasa Symphony beim Durban International Film Festival vor: "Die erste Vorstellung fand vor vierhundert Schülern statt, die danach vor allem fragten, wieso Schwarze klassische Musik statt Rap oder ähnlichem spielen. Der Film kam sehr gut bei ihnen an - und gelacht wurde an ganz anderen Stellen als in Europa. In Südafrika haben schon erstaunlich viele Menschen von "Kinshasa Symphony" gehört."

Kinshasa Symphony hat seine Premiere im Kongo.
Der Film läuft "open air" am 20.7., dann als Gala-Vorstellung für das gesamte Orchester am 21. Juli im "Hotel Venus" und am 22. Juli im "Centre Culturel Wallonie-Bruxelles" fileadmin/user_upload/pdfs/PM_Filmvorfuehrung_in_Kinshasa.pdf>>>

Kinshasa Symphony erhält den Publikumspreis beim „Festival des Deutschen Films“ >>>

Special Mention: Kinshasa Symphony "The jury was very enthusiastic about the portrayal of the creative musicians in Congo."

Kinshasa Symphony opens the prestigious "Visions du Réel" festival in Nyon (Switzerland) on 15 April 2010 

8.3.2010 World premier of Kinshasa Symphony a complete success: two showings completely sold out, keen interest from the audience

Kinshasa Symphony selected for Berlinale 2010
The film “Kinshasa Symphony” celebrates its world premiere at “Berlinale Special” on February 17th 2010, 21:45h (rerun February 18th, 18:00h, Cubix 8)

The team is back in Berlin and the postproduction has started already.

The second phase of filming in
Kinshasa has begun. Fortunately, the rains have held off. Rehearsals, outside shots, short musician portraits and a new protagonist: a tubist with his own pharmacy. And: the cameraman still has both his shoes.

sounding images GmbH has succeeded in bringing the Kinshasa Symphony project to the attention of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. The orchestra gave the filming team a crate with collected instruments for L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste. A long-term partnership is planned between the two orchestras. An instrument maker is also to travel to
Kinshasa to offer support and advice locally.

sounding images has succeeded in securing the patronage of the German Commission for UNESCO for the Kinshasa Symphony project. This makes us very proud.

The first leg of the filming is over. With the exception of one of the cameraman’s shoes that got lost on the flight back, the team and their equipment have returned unscathed…

To top