Deep in the mists of the Congo Basin, undisturbed by civilisation, live the Aka - an ancient tribe of nomadic pygmies. Theirs is an existence built on magical rituals and sexual power, lived beneath a canopy of ancestral myths. But with a logging company set to raze the rainforest that cradles their world, it is also one on the verge of extinction. Clever, fresh, and endearingly profane, this is a visual love-letter to an endangered people.
Human wails ring out over the sounds of the Congo's teeming wildlife. Encircling the spot where an Aka woman in the throes of labour lies on her back on a bed of leaves, a throng of her fellow tribeswomen await the child and attend to the mother. In a matter of minutes it's all over. Baby and placenta are ejected unceremoniously onto the forest floor; the umbilical cord is cut with a sharp piece of bark. From their perches on their mothers' backs, children watch the unfolding scene with curious eyes. The cycle of life holds no mystery to even the youngest Aka, who are born and live close to nature.
The Aka hunter-gatherers have survived with almost no contact with the outside world for generations. "Komba founded everything. The animals, the forest, everything."
The tribe are spiritual people. They believe they were gathered together to provide company for the lonely deity Komba, who once lived with them in the rainforest but has now left the world of humans. "Now everything belongs to the Makondi"
. The Makondi, or dancing spirits, are said to preside over the sexual mores of the the Aka people, favouring the faithful and ruthlessly punishing misconduct. Within this tight-knit community we meet Akaya and Kengole, a young couple whose greatest desire is to have children of their own.
Yet whilst in many ways this remote tribe seem to exist in a different time from the rest of us in the 21st Century world, there is a surprising common humanity that shines through in this intimate portrait. From discussions on divorce and abortions, to profane banter and gang fights, to frustrated domestic mutterings of "why am I the only one who cleans up this pigsty?"
, daily life in this community is touchingly similar to our own.
"I am glad you found us, Linda, and that you want to share our story."
The Aka welcomed filmmaker Linda Vastrik for the seven years she spent living among them, sharing their most intimate moments and most sacred rituals with her. The result is a rare and stunning insight into an increasingly endangered way of life.
Winner - IDFA, Peter Wintonick Special Jury Award for First Appearance, 2014
Official Selection - Hot Docs 2013
Golden Kapok Award - Guangdong International documentary film festival, China
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