Elephant’s Dream

( Belgium / 2014 )
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Elephant's Dream
Elephant's Dream
ELEPHANT’S DREAM is a portrait of three state-owned institutions and their workers in DR Congo. The interwoven stories of a female post-office clerk in the dilapidated Central Post Office, two colleagues at the railway station and the group of firemen in the only fire station give an insight into their daily lives and survival in the third largest city of Africa, Kinshasa. We see a world so different from ours, whilst at the same time recognising the familiarity of the universal. How does this society cope with the current status quo and what promises does the future hold?
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Formats: Digital Copy, DVD
Running Time: 52 / 72 min
Theme: African Cinema and Culture, Business, Economy, Globalization, History, Politics, Society
Language(s): French
Subtitles: English
Director(s): Kristof Bilsen
Producer(s): Bram Crols, Mark Daems
Cinematographer: Kristof Bilsen
Editor(s): Eduardo Serrano
Excluded regions: United States, Canada, see all »
Elephant’s Dream


  • Press Kit
  • Three ordinary stories are combined in this quite extraordinary documentary’
    The Hollywood Reporter
    Boyd Van Hoeij
  • Kristof Bilsen’s eloquent, enigmatic portrait of a city and civilization in slow collapse is set in the city of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, focusing on three civic institutions: Henriette sings to herself and stares through the glass cage of her box-office window, Simon and Nzai hold court at the train depot, and an unhappy fireman sits on a chair at the city’s sole, ill-equipped station. Each of them ruminates, usually in voiceover, about their hopes and frustrations. Shot in a series of long, perfectly composed takes, Elephant’s Dream is suffused with an almost petrified calm. Though a rap song rails about the horrors of child soldiers, here in the city the talk is of Chinese investment and technological progress. The tone and style is that of a dream, frozen between the dark past and whatever the future might bring.
    The Globe and Mail
    Liam Lacey
  • Highly poetic, deeply insightful
    Critics Associated
  • A striking meditation on finding resilience
    Scene Creek

Quotes & Tweets

  • “Elephant's Dream masterfully creates a dreamlike listlessness, sad and funny, that gently hints at great historical tragedy. A beautiful film.”
    Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence)
  • “One of the most tender and intense films I've seen in ages, a true film d'auteur.”
    Hubert Sauper (Darwin's Nightmare, We Come as Friends)

awards & accolades

  • DocPoint - Winner, YLE Competition
  • Docs Against Gravity - Winner, Magic Hour Award
  • TRT Documentary Award - Winner, Best International Doc

Festival participation

  • DOK Leipzig - Young Cinema Competition
  • IDFA - Panorama
  • DocPoint
  • Docville
  • HotDocs
  • DOK.fest Munich
  • Docs Against Gravity
  • Freiburger Film Forum
  • East End London Film Festival
  • Milano Film Festival
  • Inconvenient Doc Film Festival
  • Cork Film Festival
  • TRT Documentary Award

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Additional Info

Production Company: Associate Directors
Distribution Company: CAT&Docs

  • Synopsis

    Elephant’s Dream is a portrait about three State- owned institutions and their workers in DR Congo. The interwoven stories of a female post office clerk in the dilapidated central post office, two colleagues at the railway station, and the group of firemen in the only fire station provide insight into their daily lives and survival in the third largest city of Africa, Kinshasa.

    The story of Henriette, the post office clerk, is our leading narrative that drives the film. We follow her from her non-existent job as a counter clerk in the post office un5l the inauguration of a new money- transfer-service of the post office in 2012 and Henriette’s detachment to a tiny new office in 2013.

    That narrative is symbolic for Henriette’s personal development but also embodies the wider perspective of an era of Modernization and privatization of the Congolese State. Around this leading narrative, we construct the storylines of the firemen working in hardship at the only existing fire station in Kinshasa and the story of the guard Simon and his friendship with his colleague Nzai at the peaceful remote train station in the countryside, 3 hours off Kinshasa city.

    By interweaving these 3 narratives we are let into a world that is so different from ours, yet at the same time so familiar and universal. Together with Henriette at the Post-Office, Simon at the Rail Station, and the fire brigade, we wonder how this society copes with the current situation and how it will revive. Together with our characters we feel the impact of foreign powers and see how little there might be left for the Congolese to manage themselves.

    Although these three government-owned institutions are running on their last legs, the film allows for a surprisingly poetic and empathetic look at a State in decline. Yet, it also makes us witness the small but apparent moments of change and revolution, and at the same time functioning as a mirror to what is happening in the Western world.

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Elephant’s Dream

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