There was a small African Film Festival which took place here in Wellington this past weekend, and which will have a (slightly expanded) programme in Auckland at the end of the month. It was a chance to catch up a few recent films, both documentaries and fiction. This one is the former, and while it has a somewhat academic feel to it, it’s still interesting and enlightening about ongoing social justice issues.
I can’t really fault this documentary, made under the auspices of the University of Michigan (if I deduce correctly from the end credits) and directed by members of the faculty there, in the way that it earnestly tells the story of a few members of the Maasai people, who live in lands in Tanzania and Kenya. Their story, which is a familiar colonial story of dispossession from areas of the greatest natural resources, pushing them into less productive lands and leading to protracted and ongoing fights for their rights to their ancestral lands. Access to education is the film’s particular interest, showing how this has helped a number of Maasai to leadership positions on a global stage (specifically, the United Nations), which has in turn allowed them to promote the importance of education amongst their communities, and how those who have been educated (such as Evelyne, whom we see studying in Northern Arizona) have made a material difference to their own lives and that of their families. There are a number of interviews with each of them over a course of years, with some fairly dry footage of them at the UN, but also in their villages (which in the case of these Maasai are in Tanzania), and it’s certainly interesting to see. I suppose it has a certain didactic feeling, as you might expect from a university-sponsored public education documentary, but it provides some interesting context to indigenous rights in this part of the continent.
Directors Ron Mulvihill and Kelly Askew; Cinematographer Mulvihill; Length 67 minutes.
Seen at Light House Cuba, Wellington, Sunday 8 November 2020.