Max is missing. His mother in Congo is worried and his family in Europe bewildered. His brother Kaze finds the video cassettes Max shot in Kinshasa and Lisbon, and sets out to find his sibling, who left without warning, "like a thief." Styled as an intimate diary, Kinshasa Palace roves from Paris to Congo and Portugal, eventually flying all the way to Cambodia in search of the elusive Max. But there is more than one mystery at play here. Beyond the answer to Max's whereabouts lies the more provocative question, Who is Kaze? Director Zeka Laplaine plays Kaze; the anagram is an obvious clue. In his previous film, (Paris: XY), he played a character named Max. Kinshasa Palace playfully smudges the line between fiction and memoir, constructing an investigation of a family scattered across three continents. Kaze and Max's father is Portuguese, but sits in Lisbon reminiscing about his days in Congo (which he insists on calling Zaire). Their mother has stayed in Kinshasa and cannot imagine living in Europe where, as she says, you have to like solitude and are likely to die sooner. Guided only by traces of Max, including a totemic bracelet and a red notebook he left behind, Kaze continues his pursuit. As he edges closer to answers, the scenes of his search are accompanied by spoken memories, Congolese pop music and the most melancholy of Portuguese songs. The film opens up once in Cambodia, where Max seems to be just around the corner. It may be that semi-fiction is the ideal form for a film dealing with Congo. Real events can seem too extreme for drama and real people too circumspect for documentary. In employing a questing, hybrid form for Kinshasa Palace, Laplaine gives himself the freedom to superimpose memory and contested histories and to layer narrative and reflection. Laplaine taps deep emotions in the story of a family defined by its migrations; they are not so much scattered as projected across oceans.
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