The subsoil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the richest in the world, and for years, mining has been the bedrock of the country’s economy. In the 1990’s, a combination of poor maintenance and bad governance severely impacted the state-owned mining company, Gécamines. As Zaire fell apart and war broke out, mines were taken over by artisanal miners desperate to improve their living conditions. Today, an estimated two million diggers are active in the DRC and provide a living for 20% of the country’s population.
Kienze documents life in a quarry in the territory of Bukama, deep in the savannah of the Katanga region. Here, in the village of Kienze, a mine formerly operated by Belgian colonialists has been reclaimed by miners who dig for cassiterite – the principal source of tin used in the manufacture of circuit boards. Driven from their homes to a temporary camp lacking electricity, running water, health clinics or roads, the men who dig come from different regions and speak differing languages, and include desperate farmers, unemployed graduates, and teenagers who have never so much as heard of school. Relying on their own ingenuity and resilience, the miners and their families have invented their own social norms, vocabulary and culture, and have developed means of settling disputes, keeping themselves entertained, maintaining their health, and managing economic life.
The camera follows the workers through a disfigured jungle and documents the laborious processes of extracting, cleaning, and filtering tin ore. This ethnographic film is an account of the extracting techniques, personal concerns, and living conditions of the men who dig – by hand – the precious metals which the West craves.
DIRECTED, SHOT AND EDITED BY Jean-Philippe Marquis
FIXER AND INTERPRETER Cyrille Lupembwe
COLOR CORRECTION Étienne Grenier
SOUND EDITING Matteo Pellegrini
TRANSLATION Justin Dzaringa