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An Evening with Baloji

Thursday, February 29

6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. CST

Gene Siskel Film Center Theatre 1, Other

Baloji, Peau de Chagrin / Bleu de Nuit, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Sudu Connexion.

Critically acclaimed Belgian-Congolese artist and musician Baloji presents a selection of his stunning short films. Operating in the realms between documentary, magical realism, and social critique, Baloji’s hybrid practice explores the transcultural identities of the African diaspora and the history and future of the Congo. He often collaborates with other artists to create elaborate costumes and sets his films to his own music, itself a kaleidoscope of hip-hop, Congolese rumba, and house with lyrics that mix the personal and political.  

2018–19, Belgium / Democratic Republic of the Congo, 54 minutes
In French with English subtitles / Format: DCP

Presented in partnership with the Gene Siskel Film Center, which premieres Baloji's debut feature Omen on Friday, March 1, as part of the European Union Film Festival: Spotlight on Belgium.

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PROGRAM

Kaniama Show
2018, 23 minutes

Winner, Special Jury Prize, Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur

Echoing the title of his critically acclaimed 2018 album 137 Avenue Kaniama, Baloji’s short is a stinging satire of political corruption and media collusion in post-independence Democratic Republic of the Congo. Taking shape as a Sunday afternoon variety show, smiling guests sing the praises of government officials and mining interests while musical interludes suggest a different reality. 

Peau de Chagrin / Bleu de Nuit
2018, 10 minutes

A dreamscape of electric hues and intriguing characters”– Daphne Milner, It’s Nice That

In the bewitching Peau de Chagrin / Bleu de Nuit, Baloji meditates on both the ardent bonds between people as well as between people and the land. Set on a former Univlier plantation in Lusanga now cultivated by the Congolese Plantation Workers Art League—an art and agricultural cooperative that has bought the territory back with profits from the sale of artworks to Western institutions—the film unfolds in a series of tableaux that interweave the story of an unstable romance with the violent history of colonial extraction. Suffused with the region’s greenery, the two stories play out on stages woven from palm leaves and Indigenous vegetation and overseen by skeleton-faced ghosts.

Never Look at the Sun
2019, 5 minutes

When he was young, Baloji often heard the expression “never look at the sun…because you’re already black enough.” In this collaboration with the acclaimed writer and designer Thandi Loewenson, he uses choreography, costume, and poetry to examine the effects of colorism and skin lightening on the psyches of Black men and women.

Zombies
2019, 15 minute

Winner, Principal Prize Oberhausen International Short Film Festival

Set in a hallucinatory Kinshasa, Zombies explores the effects of social media and its myopic soft power. Moving through the city’s hair salons, futuristic clubs, street parades, and a river overflowing with garbage, Baloji’s subjects pose for the camera or keep their eyes on their phones. Collaborating with queer performers and street artists in striking costumes made from trash like bottle caps and e-waste, Baloji also amplifies Kinshasans’ spirit of reinvention and disruption in their efforts to redress long-entangled social, political, and environmental injustices. These men and women, he suggests, are the creative resistance to our digital “servitude volontaire.” 

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ABOUT THE ARTIST

Born in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and based in Belgium, Baloji is an award-winning musician, filmmaker, art director, and costume designer. The word “baloji” refers to occult and evil forces. In Swahili, it initially meant “man of science,” but in colonial times it has been interpreted as “man of occult sciences”—essentially, “sorcerer.” This nominal assignment has proved to be both a burden and a gift, driving his visionary interest in the oneiric, magical, and historical. As a filmmaker, Baloji has produced six shorts, including the award-winning Zombies and the feature Omen, which won the Prix de la nouvelle voix at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival and is Belgium’s entry for the 2023 Academy Awards. Baloji Augurism, a solo exhibition related to Omen, is currently on view at the Fashion Museum Antwerp. As a musician, Baloji has released two solo EPs and two critically acclaimed albums, HotelL Impala (2007, EMI France) and 137 Avenue Kaniama (2018, Bella Union).

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ACCESSIBILITY

The Film Center is ADA accessible. Theaters are equipped with hearing-loops. CATE events are presented with real-time captions (CART). For other accessibility requests, please visit saic.edu/access or email cate@saic.edu.

TICKETS

$13 General public
$8 Students
$6.50 Film Center members
$5 SAIC staff & faculty & AIC staff
FREE for SAIC students with a valid ID

All CATE programs are free for SAIC students. Unless otherwise noted, SAIC student tickets are released five days prior to showtime. Tickets must be picked up in person from the Gene Siskel Film Center box office. A student ID is required.