Going Bongo is a heartfelt indie offering from writer and lead actor Ernest Napoleon, following a Los Angeles doctor who “mistakenly” volunteers to work in Africa for a month. The movie takes a comprehensive look at the trials and tribulations of young Dr Lewis Burger (played by Ernest Napoleon), who must put aside his preconceptions and learn to love life in the Bongo, or Dar-es-Salam to be precise.
The movie is a character study that aptly depicts the sense of cultural alienation of a young American doctor, first in Dar-es-Salam, and then later in his hometown of LA following his return from Africa. The movie is shot on location in Los Angeles and Tanzania (the first international movie to be shot in the African country) and cleverly draws on the contrast between the two.
Although the characters are drawn in broad-strokes, there are more than enough light moments and laughs to keep the plot moving forward. The supporting cast, from Kim Kardashianesque bridezilla Marina Kezerian (Ashley Olds) to foreign love interest Dr Laura Carmenucci (Emanuela Galliussi) put in solid performances, and some of the movie’s highlights come from the interactions between the fish-out-of-the-water doctor and the staff at the Tanzanian hospital.
While some aspects of Tanzanian culture perhaps could have been handled more sensitively, the audience leaves with a clear understanding about just how deeply the filmmakers themselves were transformed by their time in the East African nation, lending depth to a film that, at times, suffers from muddled plotting. Also worth mentioning is the movie’s soundtrack and opening credits, which feature some nice usage of local tunes and art styles to cement the African atmosphere.
Mahmud El Shafey
Going Bongo is released on 4th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for Going Bongo here: