Sometimes It Was Beautiful, a film by Christian Nyampeta, will be screened in the presence of the artist. It tells the story of the Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist and the films he made in the Congo in the mid-twentieth century. This is a Belgian premiere because the film has never been shown in Belgium before! As part of Contour Biennale 9, Nyampeta presents a combination of individual works that deal with two former Belgian colonies, the Congo and Rwanda.
The film Sometimes It Was Beautiful is structured through a changing number of episodic fragments. The fragments orbit around a meeting of improbable friends, gathered to review films by the Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist that he made in the Congo in the 1940s. Among these personalities are Yasser Arafat, Leela Gandhi, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rigoberta Menchú, Robert Mugabe, Wole Soyinka, and Crown Princess Victoria. Further colleagues of Sven Nykvist from both sides of the grave also attend his screening: Andrei Tarkovsky shows up, and Winnie Mandela seems to have something on her mind, while the 14th Dalai Lama is rumoured to be nearby. All these figures have committed themselves to a cinematic palaver. Repetitions abound, doubts multiply, accusations surge, sidelong glances are cast, meaning is lost, and incredulities are expressed.
In Sometimes It Was Beautiful, fiction is a permissive hosting structure in which the invocation of characters provides a playful and perhaps protective shield that may allow the protagonists to navigate through the corrosive wastelands of histories.
Co-produced by Kunstenfestivaldesarts and with the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund.