Generally favorable reviews - based on 11 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 11
  2. Negative: 0 out of 11

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Oct 1, 2011
    This unsentimental, smartly assembled film is equally attentive to the cacophony of African poverty and the balm of harmony provided by these pied pipers of hope.
  2. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Oct 6, 2011
    Benda Bilili! earns its exclamation point. It's a feel-good movie that actually makes you feel good, a story that will have you shaking your head in astonishment and moving your feet to some unstoppable rhythms.
  3. Reviewed by: David DeWitt
    Sep 29, 2011
    Benda Bilili! is brutally real, a document of willpower that shows not only the magic of transcendence - which may be fleeting - but also the transformation of aspiring to it, every struggling step of the way.
  4. Reviewed by: Ernest Hardy
    Sep 27, 2011
    But real-life hard-knock plot twists, as well as some tweaking of form (there's no narrator or voiceover of any kind; the film's subjects outline their grim realities largely through their rhythmically upbeat songs) make the film absolutely riveting, as does the fiercely rousing music.
  5. Reviewed by: Philip Wilding
    Sep 25, 2011
    Wielding inspiration and uplift in equal measure, this musical odyssey is one of the cinematic journeys of the year. Don't miss it.
  6. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Sep 25, 2011
    Most magically, if one were to listen to their music but not know anything about their heart-wrenching situation, their compositions sound as if they've come from the luckiest and happiest performers in the world.
  7. 75
    An unabashed crowd-pleaser.
  8. Reviewed by: Jay Weissberg
    Sep 25, 2011
    Audiences will find the group's triumph inspiring.
  9. Reviewed by: Stephanie Merry
    Oct 20, 2011
    The band's success is never diminished. The fickle music industry can seem so arbitrary: A talented singer with connections might not make the cut, while a middling performer in the right place at the right time rockets to fame. Staff Benda Bilili's unlikely triumph is an epic feat, with or without anyone's help.
  10. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Sep 25, 2011
    The film's inquiry into the artistic method remains somewhat at the superficial level, but the directors do a fine job of emphasizing both the circumstances that lead to the music's creation and the satisfying result of the irrepressible sounds.
  11. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Sep 27, 2011
    It may be petty to dismiss such a rags-to-much-better-rags story, but given how manipulatively constructed this music doc is, even in its rawest moments, you still leave feeling like you've been played.

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