Friday, August 18, 2006

August Film Roundup: Africans fleeing to Europe, New Orleans searching for hope, and Rwandans who have found it.

I’ve been having quite a bit of fun this month taking time to read the writings of some of my favorite bloggers and discovering newcomers to the blogosphere. Sometimes it is a good idea to keep quiet and pay attention to what others are saying and writing, although I could not resist the temptation of adding a comment or two here and there.

As usual bloggers around the world are writing about everything under the Sun from the recent 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon to the historic multi-party democratic elections taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first such elections in over 40 years. The media and press of the world have aired and published some outstanding work this month as well and that is where I would like to start today.

LIVING WITH ILLEGALS – a film by Sorious Samura

CNNI (CNN International) kicked off the month with a new documentary from the renowned Sierra Leone filmmaker Sorious Samura titled Living with Illegals. The film deals with the increasing crises faced by Africans and Europeans in the hotly contested illegal immigration debate. Samura, using his trademark style of immersing the viewer into the lives of his subjects, makes the treacherous and oft-times deadly journey of an illegal immigrant from the coastal forests of North Africa (Morocco) over the Mediterranean Sea into southern Spain and then on to France and England. Here is an excerpt from the Insight News TV website:

In "Living with Illegals", award-winning journalist Sorious Samura becomes an illegal immigrant. His journey is epic as he travels from Morocco into Europe through Spain and France, finally crossing the English Channel to Britain. Samura wants to understand the reality of being an illegal immigrant, so he lives in the exact same conditions and experiences the same gruelling hardships as his companions. The story begins in Northern Morocco, where hundreds of illegal immigrants live in forests waiting for their chance to break into the enclave of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Africa. For them, Europe means work: "I am ready to do any kind of job. If I have to I’ll wash the toilets, bathrooms or train stations and I’ll be very happy. Forget I am a graduate". All that separates them from Ceuta and Europe is a 50 km, 6 m fence, around which they camp. Huddled together in cold, flimsy tents and hounded by daily police raids, the immigrants struggle to survive with no food, money or peace of mind, but their determination to reach the promised land is unyielding.

Related news and resources:

Insight News TV – home of Sorious Samura’s films and other great filmmakers
Why Western newsrooms hide the truth – The Observer, June 11, 2006

BBC News – In Depth news articles on Europe’s immigration crises
Seeking Europe’s Promised Land – Sep. 29, 2005
Eyewitness: Migrants Suffer in Morocco – Oct. 14, 2005
African Migrants Desperate Journey – Jul. 06, 2006

Der Spiegel (International English-language edition)
A Look at Germany’s Ellis Island – Aug. 08, 2005
An African Dream: I’ll make it to Europe or die trying – May 18, 2006

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE – a film by Spike Lee

HBO Network is airing a Spike Lee documentary film about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina titled When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts. NPR (National Public Radio) conducted an interview with the award-winning African-American film director and writes in their program intro for August 13th:

Director Spike Lee examines the collision of race and politics in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in his provocative new HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke, which has a special showing on August 16 at the New Orleans Arena. The film, which has no narrator, weaves together the stories of survivors, including their angry-- and controversial-- criticisms of the Bush Administration.

HBO Documentary Films has a website with lots of resources and background information on the film, including an exclusive interview with Spike Lee. HBO will air the film in four parts on cable and satellite television in the U.S.A. starting on Monday, August 21 (Acts I and II) and Tuesday, August 22 (Acts III and IV).

I’m not certain if the film will be available for viewing outside of North America, but would appreciate it if any of my readers outside of the U.S.A. and Canada who can receive HBO would inform us about the film airing in their county. Unfortunately HBO TV (Home Box Office) is not available here in Germany and other parts of Europe so viewers here will not have an opportunity anytime soon to see what promises to be a blockbuster event. German TV networks have a very bad habit of translating foreign films and video programs without providing a dual language track selection capability for the original audio. Countries like Denmark and The Netherlands are not so stupid, you get the original language track in those countries. Here is an excerpt from the interview with Spike Lee conducted by HBO:

HBO: When did you know you had to do a film about this?

Spike Lee: When Hurricane Katrina went through New Orleans or around it, I was in Venice, Italy at a film festival. It was a very painful experience to see my fellow American citizens, the majority of them African- Americans, in the dire situation they were in. And I was outraged with the slow response of the federal government. And every time I'm in Europe, any time something happens in the world involving African-Americans, journalists jump on me, like I'm the spokesperson for 45 million African-Americans, which I'm not. But many of them expressed their outrage too. And one interesting thing is that these European journalists were saying the images they were seeing looked like they were from a third world country, not the almighty United States of America.

Y’all stay cool back home in the States now, don’t be running out in the streets wanting to tear up stuff after watching this film like some folks did after viewing the ABC TV mini-series Roots by Alex Haley back in 1977. Just stay cool.

Related news and resources:

NPR (National Public Radio) - All Things Considered – Aug. 13, 2006
Spike Lee on Race, Politics, and Broken Levees

HBO Documentary Films
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts
HBO interview with Director Spike Lee about the film

Der Spiegel Online (leading German magazine, international edition)
Katrina Fallout: America’s Dark Underbelly – Sep. 12, 2005
Hurricane Katrina and Its Wake – series of articles from Der Spiegel


My friend Fola of the
Ethnic Loft blog wrote about an HBO Documentary Film feature that aired August 10th in the U.S.A. titled God Sleeps in Rwanda. The film was written, directed, and produced by filmmakers Kimberlee Acquaro and Stacy Sherman with narration by Rosario Dawson (more info). The riveting documentary is a project of the highly successful Women Makes Movies foundation, a non-profit media arts organization founded in 1972 to help facilitate the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videos made by and about women (more info about WMM). God Sleeps in Rwanda has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short and has already won four other prestigious film awards (more info here).

Unfortunately here is another great documentary film that will not be airing on German TV networks anytime soon to the detriment of people here who are very interested in this subject. The film can be purchased from the
Women Making Movies online store (more info here). Following are excerpts from the HBO Documentary Films website about this important work:

In 1994, one of the most reprehensible chapters in human history took place in the African nation of Rwanda, as one million people were killed during a 100 day purge by Hutu nationalists against their Tutsi countrymen. The genocide wiped out much of the male population, leaving behind a country that was, suddenly, 70% female. Ironically, as much as survivors had to cope with the loss of family and innocence, the incident opened up new opportunities for women on domestic, political and business fronts. In this powerful documentary, five courageous women struggle to rebuild their lives - and that of Rwanda itself - in a society still reeling from its bloody recent history.

A dozen years after the Rwandan genocide, many Americans are familiar with its horrors, in part due to news coverage and through movies like Hotel Rwanda and HBO Films' Sometimes in April. Ten years after the tragedy, God Sleeps in Rwanda explores the long-term aftermath of the genocide as it impacts five young women who were orphaned in 1994, and who have faced difficult, life- altering choices in the years since. Each lost several if not all her family members in the genocide, and several were raped by members of the Hutu militia - a tactic of war orchestrated by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the former Minister of Women and Family Affairs (later indicted for genocide and rape as a war crime). Despite their hardships, the women are determined to provide for their families and, in light of recent legislature giving women more rights and influence, impact positive changes in their community and their country.

Like the heralded feature films Hotel Rwanda and Shooting Dogs, God Sleeps in Rwanda is a must-see film that presents the hard facts about the suffering of women during the genocide along with the welcome progress made by a nation’s women and children who are struggling to recover from atrocities and war during one of the darkest chapters in human history.

Related resources:

HBO Documentary Films –
God Sleeps in Rwanda (with video trailer)
Women Making Movies –
God Sleeps in Rwanda official website
Women Making Moves – homepage

HBO Documentary Films –
Sometimes in April (a film about Rwanda)HBO – Interview with Raoul Peck, writer and director of Sometimes in April

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jams o donnell said...

I found your blog through Fola. Thanks for this post. You have given me some fascinating reading and viewing

Keith said...

"When the levees broke":

Not quite the same amount of damage as New Orleans, but just as devastating for the Burkinabe living there, and of course, it doesn't even register in the media.

Thanks for your blog. I have just put up a permanent link to you.
Best wishes

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks Jams for your visit and comment, and ditto to you Keith.

Keith, that flood damage in northern Burkina Faso looks really serious. 8,000+ people without homes and displaced should be a big deal for the news media, but to date I haven't heard or read a word about the floods except for your blog. Is flooding in that part of the country an annual threat or is this one of those unexpected 25-50-100 year floods?

It's good that the ICRC is stepping in to provide some relief, but as usual it is not nearly enough. What is the government of Burkina Faso doing to help the people affected by these floods? Can they (the government) do anything to help financially? Dumb question, huh?

Keith Smith ladies and gentlemen, of the award-winning blog Under the Acacias - a blog about the Fulani (and other tribes) of Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Keith said...

You're right - there has been nothing in the news, apart from on the Burkina media websites. In a week when 200 died in Ethiopian floods, it wasn't significant enough to make an impact - which of course means we are having trouble getting financial help. The government seem to be waiting for international help, but there is not much movement - my church in Cardiff, Wales is the largest donor after the International Red Cross!

This is an unusual event - they get small floods every 5 years or so, but it was the dam burst which made this the worst anyone has known


Abdurahman Warsame said...

Thanks for the documentaries. I've seen a chinese movie few weeks ago called "Kekexili" or "Mountain Patrol" made in 2004 about conservation in China - a must see.

I wanted to change few things in my blog and I wanted to take your advice. Would their be a problem if I change the title of the blog especially for existing RSS and Feeds?


Black River Eagle said...

To Abdurahman:

If you check the Blogger help files there should be some information about blog title changes, URL changes, and RSS/ATOM feeds. All of these changes can be made easily through the Blogger administration tool. If I'm not mistaken, changing the title of your blog will not affect your feeds except that the blog title will be different in the syndicated posts that your readers receive.

Blogger uses the ATOM syndication protocol which is similar to RSS in that they are both widely used to distribute blog posts. If you have registered your blog with Technorati or Feedburner or some other service you may want to make the necessary changes to those accounts. If you decide to create a totally new blog at Blogger, then yes this will affect your distribution of posts from your older blog via feeds as the URL, RSS/ATOM feed, and title will have changed. Hope this info helps you out.

To Keith:

One of the big problems a small country like Burkina Faso has with international media coverage of a natural disaster such as these floods is that many news editors and media producers assign a very low priority to most news events coming from West Africa. The floods in Ethiopia on the other hand are receiving daily TV news coverage, so news events occuring in Ethiopia have a higher priority (for editors and producers) than similar news events in Burkina Faso.

Of course, it helps to have a news bureau or independent reporters in the neighborhood where news is happening. Are there any international news bureaus or independent journalists based in or near Burkina Faso? This is why it is so important for citizen journalists writing about affairs in Burkina Faso and throughout Africa to fill the gaps left by the larger international news organizations.

Some forward-thinking media companies are beginning to allow citizen journalists to submit their stories for publication and broadcast. One example that comes to mind is the new CNN I-Report service offered via the CNN website. I'm sure there are more companies coming on-board such as Reuters, so check blogs like Ethan Zuckerman's My Heart's in Accra, Harvard's Global Voices, and UCLA's Online Journalism Review for more info about which media companies are accepting reports from citizen journalists.

Here is the link to the CNN I-Report Spotlight page featuring stories and news submitted by CNN readers and viewers:

The website also features a handy I-Report button on their homepage. No information on how much they are paying folks for all these hot breaking news stories from around the world, but if it is a lot of money then let me know. Immediately.

Abdurahman Warsame said...

Thanks for the advice, I've posted a comment @ chippla's, I would be interested to get your feedback.

Abdurahman Warsame said...

He Chippla, I've posted about Somalia and the need for government, I would be like to get your feedback on the post if you have time.

Mvemba said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for visiting my site and the kind comments. Much appreciated. Regarding tags, how do I tag my posts? Since my site is new, I need to find ways to raise its profile...particularly for the crisis in Congo.