[Video] Goodbye Mandima: Leaving my childhood in Zaire

Article published on June 13, 2016
Article published on June 13, 2016

Having said his goodbyes to his friends and his home country, it was time for Rob-Jan Lacombe to board a plane bound for France. Goodbye Mandima is a short film from our partners at 99media, which portrays the first ten years of Lacombe's childhood spent in Zaire. The full documentary, screening now on cafébabel.

In the short film Goodbye MandimaRob-Jan Lacombe reminisces about the first ten years of his life, spent in Zaire, the former name of the central African state now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The film's visuals are largely provided by a photographic slideshow. The documentary opens with blurry images of children watching the family depart, as Lacombe's soothing voiceover compliments the cinematography. Despite the fact that his multi-award winning Goodbye Mandima is just ten minutes long and relatively simple in style, it is in no way lacking in depth. The narrator interrogates his ten year old self, asking questions such as, "Where have I come from?" and, "Where do I feel I belong?"

Lacombe explains that upon his arrival in France, he was victim to teasing from his classmates; he had to become accustomed to being called names like "Mowgli" and "Caveman". He had always associated Europe with "ice-cream, fresh milk, escalators and swimming pools." Being born and raised in Zaire meant that he had never heard of Michael Jackson, nor did he know that in France, school children were obliged to wear shoes. After settling in Europe, he lost contact with his childhood friends WatumuAngi and Amosi – he could only portray them with an empty space...

In the face of the ongoing refugee crisis, the film leaves a bitter aftertaste. The Lacombe's escape from violence in Zaire – a country that experienced another massacre shortly after their departure in 1996 – is symbolic of the inequality that priviliges European citizens in relation to non-European refugees. The former can board a plane and travel wherever they desire, while "others" are forced, on a daily basis, to make the decision to either remain in life-threatening conflict zones or put their lives at risk by embarking on the journey to Europe.

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This article is part of a series of documentary films produced by our partner, the multilingual video platform 99.media.