Posts Tagged ‘africa’

obamas-drones

Robert Greenwald documents the war crimes of Obama et al.  The murderer in chief has racked up at least 178 dead children with his mechanized killing fleet.  Compare this child killing to his accusations against the Assad regime in Syria.

Videos and screening info here.

war-witch1

 

Where Quiet Beauty is Meshed with Violent Reality

by KIM NICOLINI

 

Thirty minutes into Kim Nguyen’s film War Witch (2012) (simply titled Rebelle in its original French Canadian release) I knew I was watching something like nothing I had seen before. Nguyen’s film is based on true stories of child soldiers captured in Burma by rebels to fight against the government army. The film is set in the Democratic Republic of Congo and told through the eyes and words of the young girl Komona. It follows Komona from ages 12-14 as she is torn from her childhood and thrown into the blood-drenched violent chaos of an unnamed African civil war. The story is harrowing, brutal and heartbreaking, yet the cinematography is so beautiful, the camerawork so sensitive and perfectly executed that the pain is brought to the surface not through overwrought melodrama but through quiet beauty meshed with violent reality. Komona’s tale will rip your heart out for sure, but her survival is not the result of some Western Deus Ex Machina, some prince on a white horse, or helicopter for World Relief.  Rather Komona’s survival is a result of her own will, her personal strength, her instincts, and her ability to continue to move forward and keep herself alive even as her world is crushing in on her.

So no, War Witch is not the kind of movie we usually see about Africa. This is not United Nations Cinema and a vehicle for white people to feel bad about Third World struggles so they can feel good about themselves for feeling bad. Rather, War Witch delivers African Realism like we’ve never seen on the screen before. It is experiential cinema, and the experience is not filtered through the propaganda of Hollywood or Western culture. War Witch is the tale of heartbreaking survival in an environment where the odds against survival are stacked as deeply as the boxes of AK47s which young children wield against an unnamed government army.  But through the set location, mechanisms of production, cinematography and acting, the film allows the audience to breathe even in a seemingly suffocating and hopeless world. We are given a chance to feel and experience the plight of Komona, yet without a didactic Western imprint.

Komona’s story could be called a coming of age story, but that is too tame a phrase for this film. If Hollywood made this movie, perhaps it would be a coming of age story. It would undoubtedly involve some sort of Western intervention – the Peace Corps, missionaries, the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, or maybe even Bono or Madonna. But the young protagonist in this film isn’t even allowed to come of age. Rather Komona’s childhood is violently ripped away from her, and she is thrust into a tale of survival against all odds in a landscape whose bloody and violent history rustles in every leaf on every tree and every blade of grass in the film.  For the entire 90 minutes we are immersed in Komona’s life within her African culture. There is not one single white person to offset, dilute, or Westernize this exceptionally harrowing and heartbreaking vision of life in the Congo. In other words, this is not Out of Africa, The Constant Gardener or Blood Diamond. War Witch is African Realism, and realism in the Congo includes traditional practices of African magic and ritual combined with guns, child soldiers, chaos and a landscape soaked with the blood of its violent history.

The only image of a white person who appears in the entire film is Jean-Claude Van Damme’s distorted and blurred face projected from a shitty VHS tape of Universal Soldier projected on a beat-up TV that is used for a theater to entertain (and indoctrinate) the army of children with guns. The children applaud with glee and raise their guns in celebration and victory as the credits of the movie role and they identify with the plight and victory of Van Damme’s vigilante rebel hero. Other elements of Western culture are strewn through the film like so much litter. The film begins with Komona’s face staring from behind a commercial banner which provides a makeshift wall for her shantytown house. The banner literally frames her face before the rebels arrive, kill off the adults in the village, and capture the children as soldiers.   The film ends with Komona playing out her final struggle while wearing a t-shirt with the brand ABERCROMBIE emblazoned across its bloody and dirt smeared front. So while Komona’s story is grounded completely within its Congo setting, the imprint of Western culture certainly exists but not in any heroic sense by a long shot.

In fact, the rebel army that captures Komona and is led by a leader simply known as Great Tiger barters in the mineral coltan and exploits his child soldiers not just to fight against the government army but also to mine this mineral which is exported and sold to make cell phones. Nearly 80% of the world supply of coltan comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The children are taught to see the mineral as the source of magic power (particularly that of its rebel leader) when in reality it is just a natural resource being sold to the profit of few at the expense of many, including children. So ties to Western culture certainly exist in the film, but not in a very favorable light.

This brings me to the title of the film War Witch and Komona’s story. The film opens with a pan of the shantytown where Komona lives. Komona’s mother braids her hair as we hear Komona’s voice begin to narrate her tale in a voiceover that runs throughout the film. Komona tells her story to her unborn child, and she prays to God that she won’t hate the baby.  The words she speaks are so brutal in contrast to the image of the innocent twelve year old child walking out into the sun, her hair spiked with the braids her mother just gave her. Komona bounces playfully on a wooden war_witch_posterboard, and the fragility of the board, the fact that it can crack at any moment, sets the tone for the world that is about to collapse around this twelve year old girl.  Smoke from war rises beyond the grassy planes where Komona plays. Everything in this opening picture is a painful contradiction. Here we see a young girl carving childhood joy out of a precarious landscape of poverty and violence. She turns her head to a sound in the distance, and in a flash her world rips apart as she runs screaming for the people of her village to take cover. The rebel army arrives, slaughters the adults and captures the children to serve as its soldiers.

In a scene of unbearable pain and tension, the rebels place an AK47 in Komona’s hands and tell her to shoot her parents or the soldiers will violently butcher them with machetes. The parents implore Komona quietly to go ahead and shoot them. Komona pulls the trigger and rapid gunfire punctuates the tears that roll down her cheeks. Her braided hair is the last trace of her childhood as she walks out with the soldiers in a state of shock. At that moment, the twelve year old Komona is thrust abruptly into a violent adult world where all she can do is fight for her survival, a world where she learns “to turn the tears inside her eyes” so they can’t be seen and she won’t be beaten.

Enslaved by the rebel army, Komona covers her braids with a cloth band. In other words, the last trace of her childhood is covered with garments of war. She and the other child soldiers are given AK47s and told that the guns are their mother and their father now. Their ancestral traditions have been replaced by the violence of war.  The children walk through the Congo landscape weighed down by ammunition and sacks of coltan.

This all sounds brutally harrowing, and it is. But what moves the film beyond a relentlessly hopeless, bleak and violent tale of one girl’s struggle is the way in which Nguyen blends traditional African Vodun (spiritual magic) practices with the hard reality of war and violence and the way the cinematography heightens this blend. From the onset of Komona’s capture by the rebels, magic, war and violence are all mixed up. The cinematography literally saturates the screen with color and light, propelling this tragic and violent tale into a kind of magical realm that has been usurped by the forces of civil war. Magic is as much a part of the reality of this film as the war that is being fought. One young soldier tosses a handful of rocks and reads their position to determine the troop’s next tactical maneuver as if he is reading tea leaves. When the new children recruits are given their AK47s, it is done with ritualistic song and dance combined with a celebratory shower of gunfire, a coming of age ritual performed with bullets instead of herbs.

In order to make life in the frontlines more bearable, the child soldiers drink hallucinatory “magic milk” that comes from tree sap. This alters their sense of reality, and turns violence into a dream instead of a nightmare. When Komona takes her first drink, she wanders through the jungle hallucinating. She stumbles onto a road and has a vision of two ghosts of the dead. They warn Komona to run because government forces are coming. Komona yells at her rebel group to flee, but it’s too late. Gun fire explodes from the jungle as if the landscape itself has been transformed into a weapon, and every single child from Komona’s village is shot dead except for her.

As the lone survivor, Komona is named “War Witch” by rebel leader Great Tiger. The rebels celebrate Komona’s magical contribution to their guerilla efforts by shooting off their guns into the night. The night sky explodes with orange fireworks from gunfire from automatic weapons. The troops celebrate their new “War Witch” in an apocalyptic vision of chaos and ritual. Komona, on the other hand, sits quietly shut off from the revelry, her face a portrait of inverted stone. Great Tiger may have named her a War Witch, but she is a reluctant witch. All she knows is death, brutality, pain and blood. She is named witch simply as a tool for Great Tiger to exert power over his enslaved troops and hold them in his spell, and Komona will be killed off as soon as she ceases to be valuable. Not a lot of magic in that formula. The close-up of Komona’s resigned face cuts to a brief scene in the middle of the celebration when Great Tiger guns down one of his rebels for stealing some of the coveted coltan.

Guns, as witnessed in this scene and many others in the film, are directly connected to ritual and magic. They have been integrated into the violent culture as much as Vodun magic itself. Children wear rifles as if the weapons are extensions of their bodies, prosthetic limbs. Their young bodies are laden with ammunition straps like the costumes of ancestral warrior rituals. The rifles are lifted and fired in celebration. They are used to slaughter the enemy as if they are divine weapons. The powder from bullets is used to light fires. Komona is given a “magic” AK47 with carved Vodun images on its grip – the Witch Gun.  But there is no magic in these rifles, and Komona knows it, just like she is no War Witch. In Komona’s world, tradition has been replaced by ammunition. The kind of blood sacrifice witnessed in this film has nothing to do with offerings to the gods, but is senseless violence without reason or spiritual connection.

Komona hooks up with a fellow young soldier (one of her original captors) Magicien when she glimpses him performing magic in his sleeping quarters. Magicien, an albino soldier, shows her strings of stones and bones that represent his dead ancestors and a wing of a bird that represents freedom of the spirit. Komona looks on hopefully as if she can find a glimpse of something beyond the hell she is living.  Magicien opens her palm and places a string tied around a cluster of rocks in Komona’s hand. He shakes violently with the magical energy of the talisman, infusing it with Vodun spirit, and he tells Komona to keep it in her pocket to protect her from war. Magicien himself wears a similar talisman around his neck to protect him. But in the end, the talismans are made of rocks, string, and other junk and only allow for momentary glimpses of possible protection, a small taste for magic in a world where AK47s and machetes trump magical powers. Magicien and others infuse Vodun rituals and talismans with faith because they need to hold onto something that is greater than the sum of their reality (death, blood, death, blood).

In a bloody shoot-out on a great rocky expanse, both Magicien and Komona let lose all their anger, rage and confusion as they fire violently at the encroaching enemy. Komona lifts her “magic rifle” and fires while screaming. Magicien fires endless rounds through a mounted machine gun. After the battle, a lone AK47 stands mounted as Komona watches the ghosts of the dead move silently over the rocks. The ghosts Komona sees are filmed beautifully and subtly almost like whispers as their white bodies and empty eyes roam the war-torn landscape. Their beauty fills the ghosts with both grace and tragedy.

After the shootout on the rocks, Magicien convinces Komona to flee the rebels. He proclaims his love for her and asks her to marry him. In a momentary glimpse of real magic and sincere beauty and tenderness and an attempt to reclaim the ancestry that was stolen from her, Komona proclaims that she will only marry Magicien if he gives her a white rooster which is the African tradition she learned from her father. Magicien takes his charge seriously and embarks on an often humorous and heartwarming hunt for a white rooster, providing a window of relief in a film that is suffocatingly brutal. Magicien eventually finds the white rooster in a community of albinos like himself, and he trades his magic for the bird. The albino community is filmed through an overexposed sun-soaked lens and shows happy families, children and adults smiling and living freely. There is not a gun in sight. It is a tiny window of possible utopia in the hell that is Magicien and Komona’s world.

With the white rooster strapped to the back of a motorcycle, Komona and Magicien are happily married and in love. They go to live with Magicien’s uncle “The Butcher” whose entire family was slaughtered in war. Komona and Magicien laugh and kiss in the fields with the grass blowing around them. But there is tremendous tension under the laughter and the smiles. The fragility of their connection blows through the landscape. The cinematography captures a landscape in a constant state of agitation. We know that the rustle of the grass could be the result of a playful breeze or could be a disruption from the feet of soldiers moving toward them. The landscape is filled with beauty and potential danger. There are secrets lurking in its recesses, and those secrets come bearing weapons.  Danger rises violently and breaks the magic spell that briefly holds Magicien and Komona together. In a violent clash between love and pain, magic and reality, Magicien is butchered before Komona’s eyes, and she is taken as a sex slave to another rebel leader.

At this point, Komona goes into aggressive survival mode. She fights off her slave by combining magic with cold hard tactical strategy. She inserts a seed pod in her vagina, an act that could seem like a Vodun ritual, but which is actually a tactical maneuver to castrate the man who rapes her. She then wields a machete and brings him down with the force of a lion. The magic is gone for Komona, War Witch or not. The only magic she has is her own strength to survive, which proves to be a miraculous force.

Bleeding and pregnant with her rapist’s baby, Komona moves through her fourteenth year in a haze of extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She thinks everyone and everything is a threat. Her internal state of self-imposed disassociation turns into a toxic cocktail of unspoken outrage. She eventually wanders off alone where she rows a canoe back to her homeland, pausing along the way and doubling over in labor pains. She delivers her baby on the shore entirely on her own, pushing it out of her body as if she is pushing every bad thing that she has witnessed in her young life, every horror she has committed under force and that has been committed against her.

With her baby in her arms, Komona returns to her home to bury the ghosts of her parents who have been haunting her since she was forced to kill them. Komona stands in the spot where she held the AK47 in her 12 year old arms and fired on her parents. She looks at the bullet holes and blood stains on the linen blowing in a dirty breeze, and it is utterly devastating, the only material left of her childhood home.

In the dirt on the ground she finds the broken remains of the comb her mother used to braid her hair during those last moments of Komona’s childhood. The comb had been stomped on, crushed, and shattered by rebel soldiers. She takes the comb’s broken body and a shirt and performs a burial in the sand. In this scene, she sings a song setting her spirit and her parents’ spirits free as she buries the ghosts of her parents, her lost childhood, and everything that was stolen from her. Finally the tears she hasn’t shed run quietly down her cheeks.

We see these tears as we always seen Komona, in absolute close-up. Her face fills the screen. The emotions locked inside her stone face are as volatile a force as the landscape she occupies. Every moment she is filmed, the strength she exerts to contain her emotions pushes out of the frame of the screen. Rachel Mwanza, the young actress who plays Komona, brings such enormous emotional presence to the character that it feels like we embody her as we are immersed in this violent world through a child’s experiences. Every scene carries a tremendous sense of immediacy and shock.

One of the reasons the film is so emotionally effective is because Nguyen uses non-actors. Rachel Mwanza was actually a child living on the streets when she was recruited for this role. Most of the actors can’t read. They were given only a page or two of script at a time and had no indication of what was going to happen next in the film’s story, so every act in the movie played out as if it would in real life – unpredictably.  The actors responded with immediate emotion that was captured on film. This is not highly polished and rehearsed Hollywood filmmaking. This is largely unpracticed spontaneous human emotion, and it seeps through the film as densely as the beautifully rich cinematography.

By the end of the film, we have followed young Komona as she is forced to kill her own parents, pick up an AK47 to fight government soldiers, become enslaved by rebel leaders, go on a hunt for a magic white rooster, watch the ground literally drip with blood from those she is forced to kill and those who she watches get killed, and finally give birth to the child of her rapist. Certainly this could be the material of overwrought melodrama, but the film never once lapses into that exploitive Westernized territory. It stays true to its unique brand of harrowing cinematic magic grounded in the brutal realism of the Congo and the history of senseless violence and civil war that have soaked that land in blood.  In War Witch magic and the real are combined to show a tale of survival on its own brutal terms. At the end of the film, when Komona falls asleep in the back of a truck, she has saved herself through her own perseverance and resourcefulness, not from some divine intervention, magic spell or Western aid. Her baby resting in the arms of a stranger, Komona lays her head on a sack, and she finally falls asleep. At age fourteen, she has her whole life ahead of her, or maybe she doesn’t . . .

Kim Nicolini is an artist, poet and cultural critic living in Tucson, Arizona. Her writing has appeared in Bad Subjects, Punk Planet, Souciant, La Furia Umana, and The Berkeley Poetry Review. She recently published her first book, Mapping the Inside Out, in conjunction with a solo gallery show by the same name. She can be reached at knicolini@gmail.com.

 

bono

Zillionaire fake philanthropist Bono is at it again, fronting for global predatory finance at the TED talks. The greedy twat Irishman’s data lays claim to improvements in the world that are completely unrelated to the rapacious predatory capitalism he shills for. His pet continent Africa has grown significantly worse over the past 30 years, but you wouldn’t know it from Bono’s cooked books.

Harry Browne is on the case:

‘Factivism’ and Other Fairytales from Bono

…In sub-Saharan Africa, where Bono’s agenda has been concentrated, the absolute numbers below every poverty threshold have skyrocked since 1981, with the number of extremely poor rising from 205 million to 386 million in 2008; at the below-two-dollar-a-day threshold the sub-Saharan numbers have almost doubled in the same period, to 562.3 million.

…As the World Bank acknowledges: “There has been less long-run progress in getting over the $2 per day hurdle.” The number of people in this category remains, after three decades, around 2.5 billion.

Slide the threshold slowly upwards and you very quickly embrace the majority of the world’s people – 80%, for example, living on less than $10 a day.

In his homeland of Ireland, the megashill is despised by more than a few for storing his multi-millions in off-shore accounts where they can’t be taxed by the desperately strapped Irish government. So much for the concern over poverty. He won’t even pay his share of taxes to help fight poverty in Ireland.

frontman

Harry Browne also gives a nod to this film:

The End of Poverty?

 

The End of Poverty?, and makes the compelling argument that it’s not an accident or simple bad luck that has created a growing underclass around the world.

 

BBC purports to investigate the theft of Africa from the Africans.  This is part of an 8 part exploration of poverty (a word not even spoken in US media).  Perhaps it has potential:

 

 

This is the most painful film I’ve seen in many years. I’ve had it six days, whereas I usually hold onto Netflix discs for one day. I’ve had to push myself to finish it, as it is so horrific, so beyond comprehension that the human mind wants to reject it outright. It’s like watching the aftermath of Auschwitz, with more detail, and more culpability on the part of the world at large.

Shake Hands With the Devil is Canadian General Romeo Dallaire’s story of the UN’s failure in its Rwanda peace keeping mission, 1994. It started off odd, the story of a white man in a black genocide. But as it evolved, the overwhelming horror of reality surpasses anything concocted in formulaic Hollywood scare fests.

The UN was the only force that could have prevented the genocide of Tutsis (800,000 killed). Dallaire saw it as a moral imperative to stay and to do everything in his power to minimize the violence. His mission was undercut by the UN and the nations who could have sent reinforcements and supplies, but chose not to. The mission was abandoned, left for dead. The genocide was written off, and the Rwandan people abandoned. This was a case where outside intervention could have been moral and justified and effective.

Dallaire cites the Belgian government’s policies, under their colonial rule, of dividing the ethnic factions of Rwanda and exacerbating ethnic tensions. This history is given some cursory attention in the film, perhaps more in the book on which it is based. Belgian troops were present as part of the UN force under Dallaire’s command. After ten of them were captured and executed by the Rwandan government death squads, the Belgians pulled their entire contingent out. No other countries were willing to send in peace keepers.

This case exposes the hypocrisy of Western powers who preach “humanitarian war.” They have used this false doctrine as a justification for attacking target nations where they wanted certain outcomes. In a case like Rwanda, where there were no readily-identifiable Western strategic aims, the western nations abandon the civilians to chaos and genocide.

 

From the you-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me files, I find 2016: Obama’s America playing in not one, but two local theaters today. Well, that’s a quandary wrapped in a dilemma. What is this obvious election-season propaganda, and who’s behind it?

In trailer 1, we learn that what concerns the filmmakers doesn’t appear to be 2016, but 1982 and black people in Africa. The blackness, front and center, and the plight of Africans gets a highlight. Here the filmmakers attempt to make a point that Barack Obama has something against “colonialism” and his real agenda (not actually in evidence in the real world, but hey, it’s right wing masturbatory fantasy time), the current president’s real agenda is to “downsize America.”

 

This is an interesting claim to make, seeing how Obama has been more competent at shoring up the empire than his inept predecessor could hope to be. The claim also seems to imply that colonialism is a good thing, and that America should be expanding its empire because of that uniquely American word “liberty.” You see, if you say the word “liberty” then you can simply colonize others for their own good, and baby Jesus smiles.

Apparently the creation of AFRICOM has no bearing on Obama’s claimed drive to end colonialism – which we’re supposed to be against? We’re supposed to be against a fantasy that’s not occurring, because Obama is for it, deeply related to his blackness and African heritage. Oh yeah, then cue the Middle Eastern music in the soundtrack. Crank it up loud as Obama proclaims, “Change has come to America.”

George Orwell might have opted to just shoot himself in the head at this point.

Some black children then fight one another irrationally over a game of Monopoly. I’m gonna need a psychologist’s interpretation of that one. Dissonance rules this piece, and it is apparently not intended to make any sense.

The poorly-mixed audio then continues over shots of “Wall Street.” Yes, Wall Street repeatedly appears, as a symbol of – what exactly? Is the implication that Obama has opposed Wall Street, its rape and exploitation of the American sheeple as well as its ongoing depredations around the globe? Seriously? Fantasy two: Obama is destroying Wall Street?

A piece of propaganda so incompetent, so detached from reality has little chance of fooling a literate, thinking people. As for our co-citizens, however, all bets are off. He is black, yes. His father was African. Case closed.

“America must grow so liberty grows.”

Really? What is the real-world meaning of this line? Where are we “growing?” With U.S. military bases in the majority of the world’s countries, which direction are we to “grow” next? Fascist empires have proclaimed their naked desire to rule the world before. This film seems to champion this idea unabashedly. Code word after code word obscures the real meaning these people mean to impart. The saddest thing is that Obama himself is on board with their concerns and is in no way opposed to these aims. This is kabuki theater aimed at uneducated, irrational viewers. There doesn’t appear to be any truth in sight, whatsoever, the ideologues behind this piece so deluded by their own bullshit that they couldn’t make a valid point if their lives depended on it.

 

That leads us to trailer 2 of “2016: Obama’s America.” Here we are informed, much as in the first propaganda, that Obama’s roots trace right back to Kenya. Hide the children. Then Obama’s first sin, the federal budget had been stalled for a claimed “1,000 days.” Really? That’s Obama’s plan to destroy America. He rejected the right-wing extremists in Congress for some time and forced them to negotiate. Eventually they rammed their cuts aimed largely at the lower classes and the needy down the nation’s throat while protecting their billionaire paymasters from any sort of new taxation whatsoever.

But it is Obama, we are told, who is “pitting one class of Americans against another.” One would have to be from Mars to be swayed by such gibberish. The utter incompetence of this hit piece is its most striking feature. It really is the product of a billionaire’s PR machine, written by sycophants to please their demonic overlords. The film should tour with neurosurgeons offering free lobotomies at kiosks in the theater lobbies. Or at least offer free alcohol if you’re going to subject people to such an assault on reality.

Trailer 2 closes with golden boy author Dinesh D’Souza, warning us, “Nothing can rob the future as much as the debts of the past.” That over Obama in Kenya again presumably at the grave of his father. It’s really his father’s plot to keep the billionaires from further cutting their taxes. If only the billionaires could pay zero, or negative taxes, “liberty” would swallow the universe. And blackness would be put in its rightful place.

Oh yes, there’s a trailer 3. Did you think you were off the hook yet?

We’re back in Kenya, back in 1982, because that has so, so much to do with America in the year 2016. Kenya, the seat of global domination and hegemony for our solar system is the cornerstone to understanding the great mysteries of planet earth today. This trailer version seems to be almost identical to the first one, with the voice over quality improved somewhat so that the words are better deciphered.

“Which dream will we carry into 2016?”

The black African one or the white one?

As false dichotomies go, this garbage should frustrate the hell out of people with multiple working brain cells. They carefully avoid making plain factual statements, placing their propaganda in the realm of questions, grand visions, vagueries.

Perhaps they’ll fleece the ignorant poor white-wing who consistently vote against their own interests. Such customers are numerous. The Tea Party will make much of this nonsense, but no one will touch on any of the realities of the day. That’s guaranteed.

Writer/director Dinesh D’Souza is a slick operator. His book was called, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” Rage? Black must equal rage in some lexicon. The claim is as false as everything else in this moronic mind wash. Dinesh hails from the American Enterprise Institute, the minor leagues for wannabe plutocrats. He knows from which direction his cash flows.

I pity the anti-fascists who will sit through this assault on intelligence for educational purposes. The central theme of the piece can be summed up in this one sentence from D’Souza’s Rage book:

“This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anti-colonial ambitions, is now setting the nation’s agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son.”

Good luck with that. Back on earth, however…

This film is a surreal, disturbing, confusing, and yet an enticing glimpse of life in Africa, neo-colonial and unstable Africa.  Black and white are represented in various characters.  Beyond that, things get a bit muddled.

Call me whatever you like, but I felt the film got derailed and jumped about a bit too much, especially the ending.  I was literally confused as to what happened with the main character.  It seemed, listening to the director’s commentary on the DVD, that the production had some difficulties, where their light kit was delayed for a full month in Cameroon customs.  That led to a complete on-the-fly reworking of the film.  I’m wagering that a little bit of continuity got lost in the malaise.

Even more confusing, a crucial scene of Maria returning home to the plantation was cut, and it ended up as a deleted scene.  Not sure why it was cut, as this was a climactic moment.  Lastly, the DVD I received had technical audio issues.  This, I tried to overlook, but it amazed me that a professional sound mix would have this blatant problem through most of the film.  I’m referring to a strange springy echo that accompanies nearly every sound in the film, the dialogue, the sound effects.  This was disappointing and distracting.

But the story was, as I said, enticing and escalates.  The situation deteriorates, and the characters are put in direct opposition to the events unfolding.  Maria is driven to harvest the crop before giving up her plantation.  The rebels are on the advance, and have taken over the land surrounding the plantation.  The government, and its corrupt officials, have their own designs on  appropriating the plantation.  Everything converges to deny Maria her payday.

I saw something very recognizable in Maria, in a blindness to danger an obsession to succeed despite the risks to herself, or others.  Actually much is familiar in White Material, including the title.  The film makes an attempt at confronting European colonialism.  The plantation is itself white material, constructed by whites, with white investment and know-how anyway.  It’s a white resource extraction enterprise, to send coffee abroad for European markets.  It requires black labor to pick the coffee, in a time of turmoil and revolution where bands of black revolutionaries control much of the countryside.

So many topics are touched upon: colonial rule, child soldiers, corruption, capitalism, racism, etc., that the film perhaps lacks sufficient focus.  It has a winged, scattershot feel to it.  Still worth a watch, but perhaps it could have benefitted from a rewrite and a bit of grace from the gods of production.