Directors: Rubén Monsuy Ndong Andeme & Gabriel Amdur
Country: Equatorial Guinea
The only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, Equatorial Guinea is a tiny nation of 1.2 million. With a terrible human rights record and heavy government censorship, it’s no surprise that there weren’t many films to choose from. In fact, for a long time I was unable to get my hands on anything at all. But in the spirit of Christmas, Talatala Films have very kindly provided me with an online copy of the Equatoguinean feature film Feguibox, prior to its VOD release in 2017.
Feguibox is a documentary – the second I’ve entered for this blog, following Cambodia’s The Missing Picture. It follows the story of Salvador Ndong Mba Ndong: an aspiring boxer from a small village. The film was shot in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympics, and Salvador hopes to become his country’s first Olympic boxer. However, he lacks access to any training resources apart from an incredibly sparse gym, he lives far from any major cities, and he is stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare trying to sort out his passport.
The filmmakers try to remain invisible throughout – there’s no voice-over narration or other interruptions. We see what daily life is like for Salvador: we see him train, we meet his friends and his wife Luna, and get a pretty good all-round depiction of life in Equatorial Guinea. There’s something of the best boxing movies in Salvador’s story. He’s a scrappy, determined hero fighting like hell for a shot at glory – looking for all the world like a Central African Rocky Balboa.
As a slice-of-life film Feguibox is an interesting glimpse into a largely forgotten corner of the world. Salvador’s dream of becoming on Olympian would seem ambitious wherever he lived, but in a country like Equatorial Guinea, his challenges are even greater. With a child to feed and another on the way, Salvador and Luna face difficult questions about whether it’s reasonable for Salvador to risk their future chasing a seemingly impossible dream. Because for all the similarities, this is not a Rocky film, and a happy ending is not guaranteed.
Everyone loves an underdog, and on that front Feguibox delivers. It’s slower and more languid than you might expect for a boxing movie – there’s no villain to be defeated, and very few scenes are actually set in the ring itself. It’s a straightforward, cleanly and competently made film about one man trying to reconcile his dreams with reality. For me, that’s enough in its own right. I enjoyed Feguibox, and I’m grateful to the distributor for giving me early access.