An invigorating tale of alleged witchcraft seeped in magical realism, director Baloji tackles grief and guilt as a Congolese man returns home in this Kinshasa set mind-bender.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Within the first twenty minutes of Belgian rapper Baloji’s energetic debut feature, protagonist Koffi is being berated and humiliated by his extended family, punishment for supposed spellcasting on his infant nephew, an unexpected nosebleed imparting signs of a devilish temperament… and you thought your family were tough to handle. Koffi, an ostracised Congolese man returning to his homeland to seek his family’s blessing before marrying his pregnant fiancé, is one of four characters throughout the film to be accused of witchcraft at one point or another, including his mother, Mujila, his sister, Tshala, and a young boy named Paco, the leader of a fierce group of fuchsia clad street wrestlers.
In Swahili, “Baloji” means sorcerer, and the director pulls from personal experiences here to explore not only witchcraft, but the prejudices and connotations entailed with its association. At surface level, the eclectic palette of Joaquim Philippe’s surreal cinematography and the simmering soundscape combine to create an eerie, trip of a film. But scratch beneath the phantasmagoria, and Omen is an engaging, enthralling examination of the struggle to break free from identities enforced and prejudices inflicted, no matter how fallacious they may be. — Matt Bloomfield
“A mysterious and deeply captivating story of culture as seen through the perspective of a director who is rapidly becoming one of the most intriguing young voices in contemporary African cinema, the film weaves together a fascinating narrative that ventures off in several different directions, but ultimately finds its way back to the centre, which is where some of the most compelling commentary resides. Concise and unsettling, and deeply enthralling in a way that is sometimes impossible to categorize, Omen reveals itself to be a film constructed from some fascinating ideas, many of which are extremely abstract, as we voyage through the strange and captivating world that Baloji establishes for us throughout this film.” — Matthew Joseph Jenner, International Cinephile Society