Viva Riva! Djo Munga

Viva Riva! Djo Munga
I wouldn't qualify myself as a porn connoisseur, having only seen Edward Penishands, John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut, a snippet of a Bukkake film and something out of the Banana Cream Pie oeuvre, but Viva Riva genuinely seems like a porn film. It has a flimsy, incidental plot, atrocious production values, unexplained transitions, ludicrous dialogue and inexplicable and contextually inappropriate, but amusing, sex scenes, but lacks the actual close-ups of penetration and money shots.

I honestly can't conceive of how anyone could take this supposed gangster film, or its disturbing Hobbesian overtones, seriously beyond pious, but not particularly discerning, urban liberals, spouting something ignorant like, "It's actually really good, for a Central African film." This isn't even an exaggeration, seeing as it's the first DRC film to receive North American distribution.

Its plot, for lack of a more patronizing term, follows the titular Riva (Patsha Bay) throughout the Congo after having stolen fuel from Angolan crime lords. While the gangsters chase him down, beating the shit out of anyone that stands in their way, Riva takes it upon himself to screw a vile caricature of femininity that also happens to be the sex toy of yet another crime boss.

What's fascinating about this piecemeal assemblage of unconnected footage is that an effort is made to inject political didactics, such as cross-border disputes, police profiteering and ethnic strife, yet none of it has any sort of context. Instead, while a border guard is being blackmailed, she takes it upon herself to duck out on Angolan gangsters to have an extended lesbian sex romp with a prostitute.

Perhaps if the film didn't take itself seriously, positing Riva as some sort of ersatz, id-fuelled lothario, scenes of women in evening gowns and high heels climbing and squatting on a security gate to receive cunnilingus from a virtual stranger wouldn't seem all that out of sorts. In fact, it could work as a comedy, mirroring the peculiarity of the traditional adult film.

But Viva Riva isn't self-conscious or literate enough to understand genre deconstruction or irony. The women are all serpentine, superficial vessels to exploit because that's how writer/director Djo Munga perceives them, just as the constant inexplicable violence and extended sex scenes are only there to titillate the lowest common male denominator. (Mongrel Media)