Monday, December 06, 2010

Mzungu, the movie (the final muse)

After a month to cool off and getting away from politics thankfully... I am offended by a new documentary called "Mzungu." I recently watched the trailer and offensive, even if it is far too repeated in recent posts, is the best word for it. It's meant to be about 4 young American kids who come to "Africa" to volunteer and "change the world." The trailer goes on, "On a continent plagued by disease, poverty, survival..." (plagued by survival???) Now, in all honesty, I have not seen this film in full, but if the trailer and all the other little snippets of awesomeness on the website are any indicator, I think my guess about this movie is pretty close.

I'll let you in on something: hundreds of "mzungus" come to Uganda every year thinking they are going to help, thinking they are going to effect change. If they are lucky they'll have a great experience, and like the trailer says, it's very likely that Africa will change them more than they have changed anyone or anything in Africa. We then go back, share our great experience with friends and family, maybe get a little embarrassed that we were so egotistical in thinking that we could just show up for a month or two and have any real effect on the people who have been living here forever. Here's what we don't do - make a documentary about it! Usually we all end up learning that Africa is not the place that Western media and education lead us to believe. That it is NOT a place totally and utterly ravaged by war, famine, disease, genocide and poverty and though those things do exist on the continent, the vast majority of Africans are going about living their lives and if they got the chance to see this trailer, as some of my Ugandan friends have, they would be quite offended too. They are offended by the implication that Africa needs these bored, young, American twentysomethings to come "change" them and save them from the war, famine, disease, genocide and poverty. They are offended by the implication that they strive for "survival." They are offended by the notion of being lumped all together as one: these bored, young, American twentysomethings spent some time in Uganda and Rwanda yet the trailer keeps saying "AFRICA" perpetuating the SarahPalinesque idea that Africa is one country and not the diverse continent of 52 countries that it is.

I have a morbid curiosity drawing me to see the film though I know if I did my eyes would be in a perpetual state of roll. If you have the opportunity to see this film, go for it, just know what you're getting into.

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