During the Six Day War, Rwandan and Ugandan armies clashed in the Congolese city of Kisangani, leaving behind a large population of disabled citizens, suffering from severed limbs. The government promised a $1 billion cash settlement to the victims which never materialized. Twenty years later, they set sail to the capital, Kinshasa, to demand recompense. Downstream to Kinshasa is eerily similar to the recent powerful documentary Crip Camp, outlining the maddening lengths to which a disabled community must go in order to achieve basic human rights, while humanizing the activists beyond their disability and struggle.
Dieudo Hamadi weaves a story of a mighty band of rebels that is at times both heart-wrenching and joyful, capturing incredibly striking footage with a handheld camera. Mama Kashinde, a dazzlingly engaging disabled rights activist, theater director, and quadriplegic, serves as both the moral compass and the conviction for the group when the going gets tough. The film cuts between the ensemble traveling to Kinshasa to make their plea, and a theater performance that explores the harsh reality of the war and the aftermath. During one scene, actor Sola plays a devastated woman in shock in a hospital bed and the doctor tells her, “Legs are like teeth, if you pull them, they grow back,” introducing her to prosthetics. Later we see Sola the young woman and brave activist facing down the government with fire in her eyes. This film is for anyone who was somehow able to float through the cloud of grief to arrive a little closer to hope.