The danger with a film like this is that, as with the recent ‘No One Knows About Persian Cats’, the characters and their journey will outshine the music. But that’s far from the case here: Staff Benda Bilili’s songs are impressive, based in rumba but ranging across the global spectrum, with Landa’s keening home-built milk-can lute adding an eerie, otherworldly edge. Couple this with some gorgeous, richly textured street-level photography by the directors, and the result is artful and utterly compelling.
The film could use a sharper edge – issues with politics, race and religion are only ever alluded to – and the up-from-the-gutter narrative is a familiar one. But as an uplifting, understated and wholly engaging insight into a world entirely unlike our own, ‘Benda Bilili!’ is wonderful.