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Un certain regard 'new voice' prize goes to Omen, directorial debut of Belgian rapper Baloji


Omen (Augure), the first feature film by Belgian-Congolese musician and actor Baloji, won the “New Voice” prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival. The film screened May 22 stood out from the crowd of films in this section as something special with a rich visual language previously experienced in Baloji's music videos and heard in his electrifying four part symphonic masterpiece, the soundtrack for Augure.

This sumptuous  directorial debut is the story of Koffi (Marc Zinga) who decides to return to his home in Lubumbashi in the Congo with his partner Alice (Lucie Debay).  Pregnant and expecting twins, Koffie's family do not welcome them. Koffi was rejected by his mother early in life because he showed signs of being a Zabola (Swahili: Magician) or demon. The film's poster features this demon in a haze of pink smoke. Other actors in Omen are Eliane Umuhire as Tshala and Yves-Marina Gnahoua as Mama Mujila

Balioji reveals that his father died in 2018 and professional mourners were hired for his funeral. He did not want the mourners to cry for him yet his tears became intertwined with theirs.  Baloji has said that this was the impetus for Augure and for eight weeks he was in a feverish state. Out of this experience, Omen was born.

The artist's film influences are electic: Barry Jenkins, Steve McQueen, the Safdie brothers, Sean Baker and Wes Anderson. From South America he lists Alexandre Landes and Alejandro González Iñárritu);  from Spain Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Pedro Almodóvar and from South Korea Park Chan-wook. The Belgian musician grew up in Liège in a Sicilian neighbourhood  and esteems the work of  Antonioni, Fellini and Pasolini. All these fantastic filmmakers have paved the way for an outstanding new master in the world of cinema, introduced at the 76th Festval de Cannes.

Omen cost 1 million euros and was shot in 23 days with 94 scenes. The Un Certain Regard jury was made up of  Emilie Dequenne as well as Davy Chou, Paula Beer and Alice Winocour. The jury was chaired by American actor John C. Reilly. Un Certain Regard is a competitive secion at Cannes where flms are selected for their provocativness and innovation.
©Moira Jean Sullivan
Photo: Festival de Cannes


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