Empire of Dust

Bram VAN PAESSCHEN (Savage Films, 2011, 87’)

13 décembre 2012.

Une enquête grinçante, aux faux airs de western, sur la relation entre Chinois et Congolais durant la restauration d’une route en RDC.

Lao Yang est chinois. Eddy est congolais et parle couramment le mandarin. Tous deux travaillent pour une compagnie chinoise chargée de construire une route entre Kolwezi et Lubumbashi, capitale de la province du Katanga. A travers les vicissitudes du chantier, Bram Van Paesschen capte avec une malice virtuose la comédie parfois cruelle des relations entre nouveaux conquérants et anciens colonisés.


Two men representing two different cultures clash in the dust of the former Belgian colony, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lao Yang and Eddy both work for a company called CREC (Chinese Railway Engineering Company). They have just set up camp near the remote mining town of Kolwezi in the Katanga province of the RDC. The goal of the company is to redo the road - covering 300km - that connects Kolwezi with the capital of the province Lubumbashi.

Lao Yang is head of logistics of the group. He is responsible for the equipment, building materials and food (mainly chickens) to arrive in the isolated Chinese prefab camp. The Congolese government was supposed to deliver these things but so far the team hasn’t received anything. With Eddy (a Congolese man who speaks Mandarin fluently) as an intermediate, Lao Yang is forced to leave the camp and deal with local Congolese entrepreneurs, because without the construction materials the road works will cease. What follows is an endless, harsh, but absurdly funny roller coaster of negotiations and misunderstandings, as Lao Yan learns about the Congolese way of making deals.