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Baloji Tshiani’s Omen is a fascinating magical realism film that portrays an interracial relationship between a couple played by Marc Zinga and Lucie Debay, returning to Koffi’s parents to encounter traditions and the generational gap that has affected the portrayal of magic and sorcery, and how it’s perceived. The film explores different generations and different genders; and suspicion and prejudice on all sides, borrowing influences from The Warriors and Uncle Boonme and His Past Lives among many other things but ultimately retaining its own identity as a 90 minute study of the occult in an unorthodox, brave way that’s sure to be a hit. I loved it.

Baloji’s background as a Belgian hip-hop artist showcases his creative flair and the visuals look appropriately music-video like, I love the sheer amount of creativity and diversity in the costume department across all the stories at play here as the film really explores the culture of Brussels, Kinshasa and Lubumbashi in all its detail. I enjoyed every story equally, as it looks at Koffi’s mother and his sister, in addition to a gang war – which whilst mean the emotional gut punch of the film would have perhaps worked better as a short story, it achieves its goal admirably – there’s a lot of Mad Max: Fury Road in its thunderous pace and magical metatextual elements which really add to the chaotic nature of the film drawing among familiar parental encounter tropes and amplifying them to terrifying levels.

Anyone who is curious or at least interested in mysticism will be right at home in Omen, or natively, Augure. The seasoned portrayal of mysticism betrays Baloji’s experience – and the flashy visuals really compliment this film. Critics will say “I didn’t get it”, and it’s “style over substance”, but screw them – there’s more to this film than that. Research adds context to the narrative and really showcases how superstition clashes with the modern world, providing a rich texture with a variety of languages at play – its central themes of leaving a richly spiritual culture and returning to it older and removed but not a stranger to it is explored in an inter generational way that will leave you curious, enthralled and captivated. This is how a debut is done, and I’ll be seated for Baloji’s next feature for sure – especially if it’s as vivid and as self-assured in its own imagery as this, and at only one hours thirty minutes it never overstays its welcome.

One really interesting narrative choice is that it will be accompanied by a musical album, combining the two mediums for an ultimate mystical experience and I can’t wait to see what further imagery Baloji evokes.

Omen is released in Cinemas 26 April and you can watch the trailer here.

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