The Lubumbashi metropolitan area, second in economic importance to Kinshasa and the second largest town of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has a population of about five million. The town grew fast—all too fast. Once the era of colonialism ended, the mining industry continued to draw people. Unfortunately, this massive migration brought complications, such as disease, a high child mortality and corruption. To date Lubumbashi continues to suffer from problems related to the supply of water.

For Bidons jaunes Jan Vromman worked together with students from ETFL, the film and theatre school in Lubumbashi, as well students from the RITCS – School of Arts in Brussels.

The medium-long documentary starts with the sun rising over the metropolis. Impressions of the town—local trade, pedestrians in the early morning on their way to work, cars on the roads—fade into the testimony of civil servants and local workers. People such as the mayor (nicknamed Mr Proper), a teacher at the polytechnic and an mining engineer tell about their daily routine. In doing so, they outline the economic position of the town and its negative impact on the environment. Before long it becomes clear that water wells and rivers are strongly polluted, especially by heavy metals from mining. Moreover, the archaic and insufficient distribution network cannot prevent the infiltration of polluted water.

The testimonies, also by local inhabitants, turn into images of the town and its people. We see children washing in the river and elderly people drawing water from wells or from distribution points and storing it in the typical yellow canisters.

The Lubumbashi water supply system, once built for 400,000 people, is dramatically inadequate for a population numbering five million. Though the film presents a clear outline of the problems, Bidon jaunes refuses to lapse into a negative attitude. The film confronts us with injustices and abuses, but above all it breathes hope. It also shows public awareness campaigns and initiatives that are intended to effectively improve the situation (such as the inauguration of a new water pump).

Bidons jaunes also features re-enactments of everyday situations. We see for a example a father visiting his son, who is the guardian of a swimming pool that is intended “for whites only ”. The father pays his son an entrance fee to be able to do the washing with water from the swimming pool. Then his sister-in-law drops by for the same reason, while at the same time replenishing her supply of drinking water.

Despite the distressing undertone, there is also something comical and manifest about the film. The rappers R.J. Kanierra and DJ Spilulu for example present their act Bidons jaunes, in which they expose once more, in their own way, the difficult situation. While Kanierra is rapping, children are drumming on the yellow canisters. Here, Vromman’s work gravitates towards the format of the music video, which introduces another layer, as well as a certain lightness in Bidons jaunes.

  • Color system PAL
  • Color col.
  • Year 2015
  • Duration 00:43:00
  • Languageinfo
    Subtitles: Dutch/ Flemish, English UK, French
    Spoken: French, Swahili
  • Artists