L'Equipe (the Team) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a television drama series which deals with good governance, gender-based violence, corruption, and reconciliation via characters who represent a fictional all-female Congolese
football team. The DRC production forms part of a multi-national TV drama initiative by Search for Common Ground, which involves productions of The Team in 13 countries, each using a fictional football team scenario to address collaboration and good governance. The DRC production is set in the real-life post-conflict environment of the DRC, where more people have died than anywhere else since World War II, with sexual violence leading to an estimated 200,000 women raped since 1998.
The Congolese version of The Team focuses on the on- and off-the-field intrigues of an all-female football team named "The Mosquitos". In each episode, the two main female characters, Lydia and Zizina, face the choice of whether to fight the system and act for positive change or to go along with the tide of corruption, exploitation, and mismanagement surrounding them. Storylines tackle the topics of tribalism, witchcraft, citizen participation, HIV/AIDS, and electoral manipulation. The female players lead a strike, organise a fundraising match, protect children from abuse, and eventually vote the team's president out of office, learning hard lessons about honesty, allegiance, and ethics along the way. Many conflicts are provoked by the team's coach and president, who use tribalism, manipulation, and corruption to the detriment of the team. The women compete against each other in local elections, dividing their own team during the campaign. Gender dynamics are also interwoven throughout the series, where even the referee is a woman who becomes a victim of date rape by her HIV-positive boyfriend. Click here to read episode summaries of Season 1.
By choosing to focus on an all-female soccer team, Search for Common Ground hopes to offer a unique gender perspective on the issues facing the DRC. Both male and female characters are complex, with both men and women in positive and negative roles, making mistakes and confronting difficult choices along the way, often without much encouragement from the older generation.
The series is a co-production between Search for Common Ground (SFCG), Cyberpictures, and Image Drama. It is written by Congolese and uses an entirely Congolese cast and crew. The actors were from Kinshasa, including 3 homeless children who assumed the 3 main children roles. Director and Director of Photography is Ronnie Kabuika, First Assistant Director is Patrick Kalala, and Production Manager is Anselme Wimye Muzalia. The series was shot in Kinshasa's peri-urban outskirts, and filmed in a combination of French, Lingala, and Swahilii.
The 45-day shoot finished in January 2010, and the broadcast began in August 2010 on the country's largest national private broadcaster, with a lineup of more than 20 television stations around the country poised to broadcast the series starting in September. The series will also be distributed to university-based video clubs in 4 cities and to local youth associations and will be screened to local authorities. A "Miss Leader" competition will be launched midway through the series as a way of highlighting young women's leadership across the DRC. The second season of the DRC's The Team is in pre-production.
Conflict, Gender, Youth, Sexual Violence, Reconciliation, Democracy and Governance
SFCG has been working in the DRC since 2001, when it was invited by InterCongolese Dialogue mediator and former Botswana President Ketumile Masire to undertake communications for peacebuilding work. With a staff of 90 and 6 offices in both the capital and in 3 eastern provinces, SFCG currently produces 12 weekly radio programmes, a reality television programme, and print outreach materials such as comic books and posters. Other conflict transformation tools used include participatory theatre, mobile cinema, radio and television journalist trainings, civil society and youth work, and human rights work with the Congolese army. SFCG addresses issues including good governance, repatriation, security sector reform, regional cohesion, and sexual violence.
The Second Congo War, which officially lasted from 1998 to 2003, is considered the world's deadliest conflict since World War II. By 2008, the war and aftermath killed 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation, and millions of others were displaced. Fighting continues in eastern Congo, where Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan rebel armies battle for control of the area's vast natural resources, including coltan, a metallic ore used in small electronic devices. The eastern Congo also suffers the world's highest incidents of rape and other sexual violence against women.
SFCG, Cyber Pictures, Image Drama, Governance and Transparency Fund of UKaid, and the 'Media for Democracy and Good Governance in DRC' project supported by the British, French, and Swedish governments.
Search for Common Ground website on June 28 2010; and email from Lena Slachmuijlder to Soul Beat Africa on September 2 2010.