Nganji Mutiri is a photographer, filmmaker and actor originally born in the Congo, and is currently living in Belgium. He is also the editor of the poetry website L'Art d'Etre Humain (LAEH) and the co-founder of the collective "L'Animalerie" with Watna Horemans and Gregory Laurent.
His short films have been screened at film festivals around the world.
His most recent film, "Joy Power," about a young woman he met, Joy Assily, who Mutiri calls a "15 year old passionate soul," I originally saw last month and was very impressed with. How the short film came together, Mutiri puts in his own words: "Her mum is Belgian-Rwandese and her father is Belgian-Congolese."
He continues: "A few of months after she started boxing, I invited Joy and her mum to a Belgian screening of 'Creed.' We came out of the movie so galvanized by Michael B. Jordan's performance and Ryan Coogler's direction that Joy wanted me to create a training sequence involving her new sport passion. I loved the idea, but I quickly told Joy that, as (martial) artists, powerful inspiration was not enough; we needed to tell a story that will involve our singularities. So, to make a long story short, I ended up filming Joy during 4 training sessions in March at the Art & Kaizen martial arts club in Brussels. "
On his approach in making the film, Mutiri says: "I was freely deciding my narrative style progressively, while checking my rushes between shooting days. One thing was sure from the start: I wanted to capture and share the raw contagious energy I felt when I first entered the room with the Team Tatou fighters. That desire guided the editing of the short film, and the hope I have that the viewer will follow the way the unrehearsed fighting spirit of Joy is regularly put to the test."
On the film's sound design: "Focusing the 'soundtrack' of 'Joy Power' on 'primal voices' captured on site and boxing gym 'mixed melodies' was my way of keeping the attention on the universal languages of body expressions. I wanted to visually transmit hints of Joy's survival instincts without words (that's why I didn't translate any of the French dialogue you might hear)."
On the film's perceived Afro-feminist undercurrent: "Her mum and myself found it very interesting that Joy was, most of the time, the only female boxer in the room. Some of the viewers [who have seen the short] that got in touch with me, see a metaphor about Afro-feminism in the film. Of course it is, but I hope there are also a lot more inspirations for each viewer to find in the short film."
On the affect making the film has had on him: "Joy and the martial artists around her in that Brussels gym re-ignite a fire in me. Whether I do my run around the block, whether I practice some fighting techniques or mentally prepare myself for daily professional and private challenges; the ultimate training is always about bringing to life a better version of ourselves. An opinion I totally share with the filmmakers of 'Creed' and 'Rocky,' obviously :-) When the Brussels terrorist attack occurred on the 22 march 2016, I had just finished uploading the final version of 'Joy Power' on Vimeo. That day, I couldn't possibly publish the film, so, I kept the video private. It took me a couple of days to think that it might be for some viewers and myself a way of saying: whatever resilience test we are facing each time we are knocked out, we have to get on our feet again, learn the lessons of the past, train harder to improve ourselves and grow stronger, wiser."
So with that, watch "Joy Power" below and let us know what you think: