South-eastern Cameroon. A French zoologist investigates stories from pygmies about a prehistoric monster. For years, he has crossed the jungle back and forth looking for the unknown animal: the Mokélé-Mbembé, partly rhinoceros, partly crocodile, partly snake. His quest guarantees many humorous moments.
The Loch Ness monster, the abominable snowman, Bigfoot: they exist in myths, sagas and legends. Deep in the jungle in the south-east of Cameroon, the French zoologist and explorer Michel Ballot has for years been looking for proof of the existence of another such mythical being, the Mokele-Mbembe. It's like a rhinoceros with the tail of a crocodile and the head of a snake - at least that is how the pygmies describe this giant dinosaur, which apparently can even change its shape.
In this occasionally comic documentary essay, Ballot turns out to be a tenacious investigator, who cross-examines the local population keenly and wants to install cameras to capture the Mokele-Mbembe. The French filmmaker Marie Voignier follows him without commentary, adding mystery to her portrait.
Is the Mokele-Mbembe pure fiction, or does he perhaps really exist? Or is that question completely irrelevant and does the film show the confrontation between the empirically inclined Westerner and the pygmies, for whom tradition counts?
Starts as a documentary as we know from Animal Planet et al, but extends later on to a much more interesting expedition into the beliefs of the natives. People like me who normally hate such documentaries, need to bite the bullet and be patient. It is worth it.
For example, when asked about the gods they believe in, the influence of western missionaries can be clearly noticed, but not to the extent that they abolished their ancient faiths altogether. They still believe in their own god Gumba, who created the earth and all things on it. But they believe also in Jesus Christ, his son. Because of the white have killed Jesus Christ, the white posses a power the Africans don't have. That's their explanation why they persist in calling him "Boss" and refuse to call him Michael, in spite of his efforts to let them use his proper name.
Interesting views on the rivers and the methods they developed to cross them. It can be anything from a simple canoe (even capable of getting a motor bike across the river) on one hand, and some sort of ferry (able to carry a loaded truck) on the other hand. Everything is powered by hand and takes its time, but it works.
Various funny moments illustrate the differences in backgrounds of the natives. For example when showing a drawing of the beast they are looking for: is this a photo or a drawing?? How can you draw an animal that you never have seen??
I noticed that the inhabitants seem reasonably fluent in the french language, though not all of them speak it well hence need assistance from bystanders. But I can assume that the film makers made a selection in order to keep the dialogs flowing.
This film is full of colorful moments. You can rest assured that the inhabitants are treated respectfully. Having traveled in these regions for 7 years, the expedition leader needs them to obtain information, and has no inclination whatsoever to make fun of them. The information he actually gets is full of contradictions, and heavily mixed with their beliefs and folklore. Superficially, the film looks like a chase for the monster of Loch Ness, but that is only the carrier for an expedition into the minds and traditions of the local people.
Webreview from JvH48 on 02 February 08:25
Mark as improper