In the short film Goodbye Mandima, Rob-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 Watumu, Angi 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.