EN - Location: the Central Post Office and its employees in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. This grandiose relic of a colonial past has trapped its employees in a frozen time warp from which they are planning their escape. From past to present, through the cracks in the walls and leaks in the ceilings, we get a glimpse of present-day Congo.

FR - Bureau de poste central, Kinshasa, République démocratique du Congo. Cette relique spectaculaire du passé colonial a enfermé ses employés dans un espace-temps duquel ils prévoient de s’enfuir. Du passé au présent, à travers les fissures des murs et les fuites dans les plafonds, nous jetons un regard sur le Congo actuel.


Title White Elephant
Original title Nzoku ya pembe
Original language Dutch, French, Lingala, Swahili
Status Completed
Production Minority Flemish
Category Shorts , Docs
Year 2011


Cast Henriette, Christelle, Freddy
Photography Kristof Bilsen
Editing Eduardo Serrano
Sound George Lingford
Music Jon Wygens

Technical specs

Running time film 34'
Release format HDCAM
Other available formats DigiBeta
Aspect ratio 1:1:85
Sound format Dolby Digital
Colour Colour and black-white


Supported by Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF)


2012: Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (Gr), Cinema Novo (BE), Addis International Film Festival (Ethiopia), London International Documentary Festival (UK), Zomer Van Antwerpen (BE), Maysles Institute / Cinema (Harlem/NY) – “Congo in Harlem”, Jean Rouch International Film Festival (FR)

2011: Visions du Réel Doc Outlook Market (CH), Raindance Film Festival (UK), Margaret Mead Film Festival (NY), Quadrangle Film Festival (Kent-UK), FRONTDOC Aosta, IDFA (NL), Festival dei Popoli (IT), Festival de Dinard (FR)


2012: Nanook/Jean Rouch Grand Prize (Jean Rouch International Film Festival)

2011: Audience Award – Best Short Film (Festival de Dinard)

Docs pick up awards in Paris

Marie-France Collard’s Brussels-Kigali and Kristof Bilsen’s White Elephant won the Mario Ruspoli Award and the Nanook-Jean Rouch Grand Prize respectively at the Jean Rouch International Ethnographic Film Festival in paris (10 – 28 Nov). Brussels-Kigali was also selected by the National Commission « Images en Bibliothèques » for distribution in the French public libraries network.

Still from Kristof Bilsen's White ElephantThe Nanook-Jean Rouch Grand Prize for White Elephant is worth € 1,500 granted by CNRS Images. White Elephant focuses on the Central Post Office and its employees in Kinshasa, DR Congo. This grandiose relic of the colonial past  has trapped its employees in a frozen time-warp from which they are planning their escape. From past to present, through the cracks in the walls,  and leaks in the ceilings, we glimpse present-day Congo. The documentary is a production of Bram Crols from Associate Directors.

Published on Wednesday 28 November 2012

What’s up doc: 19 documentaries receive VAF support

The Flanders audiovisual Fund (VAF) has confirmed support for 19 documentary film projects. The list includes new projects by successful documentary filmmakers such as Klara Van Es, who can start working on Carnotstraat 17, and Manno Lanssens, who received script support for a new doc, Victims.

epilogueCarnotstraat 17 is produced by Associate Directors and directed by Klara van Es, who previously delivered quite a performance by scoring a cinema hit with her documentary Lost Down Memory LaneCarnotstraat 17 is up for development support. Serendipity Films-produced Victims will be director Lanssens’ third release, following the successful Epilogue and the yet-to-screen Begijnen Beginnen Vanbinnen (Beguines Begin From Within).

Published on Monday 5 March 2012

Flanders docs prominent at Margaret Mead

The Margaret Mead Film Festival (10-13 Nov) in New York has confirmed three Flemish documentaries for its line-up. Both Lotte Stoops’ Grande Hotel, which has the honour of opening the Fest, and Sofie Benoot’s Blue Meridian are selected for the ‘Filmmaker in Person’ programme. Kristof Bilsen’s White Elephant is screening in the shorts programme.

Still from Sofie Benoot's Blue MeridianEarlier this year Grande Hotel had its international debut at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. From there it went on to be selected for the prestigious Hot Docs competition in Canada where it received an Honourable Mention. Months later, the film is still popular on the festival circuit as evidenced by the prestigious opening of the Margaret Mead Festival and selections for Silver Docs.

Published on Wednesday 2 November 2011

IDFA presents Flemish doc bonanza

A record-breaking haul of eleven documentaries and four docu projects from Flanders have been selected  for this year’s IDFA, the international Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (16-27 November). Works from Jeremy De Ryckere and Kristof Bilsen, who recently graduated from RITS and NFTS (UK) respectively,  are shown in the Student Documentary competition. The other entries feature in the Reflecting Images: Panorama, Paradocs section and IDFA pitching Forum.

Still from Jeremy De Ryckere's The HeirBoth Jeremy De Ryckere’s The Heir and Kristof Bilsen’s White Elephant compete for the IDFA Award for Best Student Documentary, worth €2,500. The Heir tells the story of a father, Raf, and a son, Dominique, and their relationship to their passion: horse racing, a long family tradition. White Elephant is a documentary about the Central Post Office and its employees in Kinshasa, DR Congo. This grandiose relic of a colonial past has trapped its employees in a frozen timewarp from which they are planning their escape. Last year the Award for Best Student Documentary went to the Flemish doc What’s in a Name by Eva Küpper.

Published on Thursday 27 October 2011

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Last edited on 1 October 2014

Short info

Director Kristof Bilsen
Producers Bram Crols
Writers Kristof Bilsen

National Film & Television School
Hemant Sharda
Station Road
HP91LG Beaconsfield
United Kingdom


Website kristofbilsen.com/portfolio/white-elephant/
Preferential partners