Hot Docs 2024: Our Review of ‘Rising Up At Night’

Posted in Hot Docs 2024 by - May 02, 2024
Hot Docs 2024: Our Review of ‘Rising Up At Night’

With Rising Up at Night or Tongo Saa, documentary filmmaker Nelson Makengo takes us to Kinshasa in the DRC. It’s a city of people struggling because of two things –  the constant rolling blackouts and the constant floods. Half of the documentary are interviews and, for worse but mostly better, the askew closeups and other techniques work. These interview subjects air their grievances yet are able to find levity and solutions to the problems plaguing them.

The documentary shows the city coming alive during Christmas, using the unreliable electricity they have for Christmas lights. It finds the mix of making the day feel both special and ordinary with some spectacular lo-fi visual contrasts. After the Christmas scene, the documentary shows the city lights as a man calls a radio dj for a request. Rising Up at Night shows that if unreliable electricity can produce good cinematography, the Global North has no excuses.

Rising Up at Night has great visuals but there are gaps in the way it tells its story. It chooses not to narrow down the people it chooses to follow and it may help to give faces to the problems it’s trying to spotlight. We catch names in conversation, but brief mentions aren’t enough. Who, for example, is the Papa Kudi person, and what else does he think about the problems Kinshasa faces?

But in capturing a community in an impressionistic way, Tongo Saa has its distinct charms that viewers will remember. We’ll remember, for instance, the bubbling conflict as a community meets and notices that one of its members didn’t pay their share of the electric bill. A man laments the fact that maybe he didn’t use his degree properly. And of course I can’t hate a movie where someone bench presses two plates in the dark.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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