Few things in life make me feel truly and actively grateful for the basic things I am lucky to have. Makala humbled me, and put everything that happens in my life into a different perspective. Not only does this film provide spectacular cinematography, but it also brings an impactful message to the audience without directly telling them how to feel. Makala brings everything to the table, leaving the audience exasperated and awestruck.
The film starts with breathtaking scenes of the Congo in Africa and the main character, Kabwita making an ambiguous journey into the brush outside a small village. The absence of dialogue in the first bit of the movie make the atmosphere even more impactful than it would otherwise. The audience sits with their eyes wide open, trying to take in the scenes before them before the camera cuts to another angle.
When Kabwita reaches his destination, the camera pans over an enormous tree as Kabwita attacks it with an axe. In this extended scene, Kabwita attempts to cut down a massive tree with a thick trunk, and the audience doubts that Kabwita will ever finish cutting down the tree. This is a theme for the entirety of the movie, as Kabwita continuously defeats all odds and gives off a work ethic seldom seen in today’s society. When he finished cutting down the tree, he returns to his family and his home, which is a small, one room structure built out of raw materials such as mud and clay. Kabwita’s wife cooks a rat with a baby strapped to her back, shocking the audience into disgust as they wonder how anyone could live like this. Kabwita’s living conditions are what inspire the audience to not take what they have for granted.
Sitting with his family inside his home, Kabwita tells his wife about a decision he made for their future. Kabwita set a goal to build them a bigger, better house and will accomplish it by selling coal in the city. He lists his dream home, where dozens of fruit trees surround his house. WIth this goal in mind, Kabwita returns the next day to burn the tree he cut down and make the charcoal by hand. He then packs about ten bags of the good onto his bike, and sets off on his journey pushing the bike 50 km into town.
The audience follows Kabwita along his journey, on the edge of their seat the entire time. We watch as he struggles with exhaustion and the outside elements, waiting for him to fail at any moment due to the circumstances. Kabwita never gives up. Despite all odds, he always persists. Kabwita inspires audiences to work for what they want in life, and chase after it. As empty trucks whiz by Kabwita on dirt roads, one cannot help but feel sympathy for him and wish that one of the trucks would stop and help. No one stops, and the audience assesses whether or not they would stop to help if they saw someone struggling as Kabwita did.
When Kabwita enters town, reality hits. A truck knocks over his bike, ruining a bag of charcoal. A bandit forces Kabwita to either pay him 2,000 francs or give him a bag of charcoal, which would have been Kabwita’s profit. Kabwita begs the man to have mercy, but the man replies something along the lines of, “Forget mercy, I need money.” Not only does this line evoke sympathy on all parts, it also takes a stab at modern society’s thirst for money and the flaws humans have as they continuously put themselves and currency over other people’s lives.
As Kabwita sells his charcoal, earning less money than he originally intended to because of bartering and a decrease in charcoal value as the day goes on. Nonetheless, Kabwita gains more and more money that will hopefully get him the initial materials he needs to build a new home for his family. When Kabwita gets to the store, however, he realizes that the materials cost too much money and he is unable to buy them. It is at this moment that the audience is truly heartbroken.
In the last few minutes of the movie, Kabwita enters a church where about twenty people are clapping and praising God. He joins them, and together they all celebrate the Lord, regardless of their circumstances. The camera cuts to different people, praying for different things. One woman prays for her children to be safe and healthy. Another thanks God for keeping him alive. Kabwita prays that he can provide for his family.
The movie ends without disclosing whether or not Kabwita made it home safely, or if he ever got enough money to build his dream home. Not only does this leave the audience feeling helpless, but it also inspires them to never take what they have for granted. Makala is a mirror to society; forcing first-world countries to reflect on how good they have it and evoking a feeling of “I have to do something to help.” When viewers leave Makala, they cannot help but feel grateful for being able to drive to their homes with running water and air conditioning, but also guilty for acquiring so much while Kabwita works to provide for his family to no avail. Makala leaves the audience with more than they had when they entered the theater and inspires them to help others in need.