Table of Contents


A. Background Readings


B. Film and Video Guide


Africa: A Voyage of Discovery                                                                                                           

Africa Features/Tanzania Features                                                                                               

The Africans: A Triple Heritage                                                                                               

An African Recovery                                                                                                                       

AIDS in Africa                                                                                                              

Angano . . . Angano: Nouvelles de Madagascar (Angano...Angano: Tales from Madagascar)           

Baabu Banza: Nothing Goes to Waste                                                                                   

Bamako Initiative In Action, The                                                                                               

Borom Street                                                                                                                             

Botswana - Planning the Future                                                                                               

Can the Elephant Be Saved?                                                                                                           


The Cutting Edge of Progress                                                                                               

Desert and the Deep Blue Sea, The                                                                                               

The Drilling Fields                                                                                                                       

The Earth that Feeds Us                                                                                                           

Edge of the Abyss                                                                                                                        

Everyone’s Child                                                                                                                       


The Faces of AIDS                                                                                                                        

Forsaken Cries: The Story of Rwanda                                                                                   

Fragile Riches                                                                                                              

Global Links: Curse of the Tropics                                                                                               

Global Links: Women in the Third World                                                                                   

Guardian of Africa: The Tsetse Fly                                                                                               


Guerra Da Agua (A Water War)                                                                                               

Hands Up for the Environment and the Market                                                                       

Harvest: 3000 Years                                                                                                                       

Healers of Ghana                                                                                                                       

Hungry for Profit                                                                                                                       

Living with Drought                                                                                                                       

Losing the Land                                                                                                            

Man‑Made Famine                                                                                                                       

Nigeria: A Squandering of Riches                                                                                               

Once There Was a Forest                                                                                                           

Parks or People                                                                                                            

Physical Geography of the Continents: Africa                                                                       

Plague Upon the Land                                                                                                           

Politics Do Not a Banquet Make                                                                                               

The Poverty Complex                                                                                                                       

Previnoba and Partipative Approach to Rural Forestry                                                           

Praying for Rain                                                                                                                       

Quand les etoiles rencontrent la Mer                                                                                   


Race to Save the Planet Series                                                                                               

Rain Song (from The Lost World of the Kalahari Series)                                                           

Rivers of Sand                                                                                                              

Roots of Hunger                                                                                                            

Sango Malo                                                                                                                              

Season of Hope                                                                                                             

Sex, Lemurs and Holes in the Sky, 1993                                                                                   

Sidet (Forced Exile)                                                                                                                       

South Africa: The Wasted Land                                                                                               

Spoils of War                                                                                                                            

Ta Dona                                                                                                                                   

These Hands                                                                                                                             

Tree Planting in Mozambique                                                                                               

Under the Baobab Tree                                                                                                           


Yaaba Soore                                                                                                                             

Zan Boko                                                                                                                                 

Zimbabwe: Talking Stones                                                                                                           

Zimbabwe: Tourism Along the Zambezi River


C. Distributor Information                                                                                                    


D. Supplimental Information

Africa On-Line                                                                                                              

Internet Resources for Africa and African Studies                                                              Environment-Related Websites                                                                                              





            1.  Mbye B. Cham, Introduction, in Imruh Bakari and M.B. Cham ed. African Experiences of Cinema (London: British Film Institute, 1996)


2   Dickson Eyoh, Teaching Culture and Politics with African Cinema, in J. Parpart & M. Bastian eds.  Great Ideas for Teaching About Africa (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1999)


3.  Joel Samoff, Tarzan, Terrs, and Liberation: A Challenge to Teachers Using Films on Africa, in Teaching Poltical Science 8 (1) 1980 pp 41 -60


4.  D.J. Campbell & J.M. Olson, Environment and Development in Kenya: Flying the Kite in Kajiado District, in Centennial Review, 35 (2) 1991 pp 295-314.


5.  David J. Campbell, Land as Ours, Land as Mine: Economic, Political & Ecological Marginalization in Kajiado District, in T. Spear & R. Waller eds Being Maasai (London: James Curry, 1993.


6.  M.P. Simbotwe, African Realities and Western Expectations, in D. Lewis & N. Carter eds. Voices from Africa: Local Perspectives on Conservation (Washington DC: World Wildlife Fund, 1993.


7.  Ackim N. Mwenya, Redefining Conservation in African Terms: The Need for African-Western Dialogue, in D. Lewis & N. Carter eds. Voices from Africa: Local Perspectives on Conservation (Washington DC: World Wildlife Fund, 1993.


8.  M. G. Anderson and C.M. Kreamer, Wilderness, in their Wild Spirits Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness, (New York; The Center for African Art)



9. Christine Loflin, Introduction, in her African Horizons: The Landscapes of African Fiction (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998)


10.  B. Thomas-Slayter & D. Rocheleau, Gender, Resoruces, and Local Institutions: New Identities for Kenyan Rural Women, in their edited Gender, Environment, and Development in Kenya: A Grassroots Perspective (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1995





Please note:  all price and distributor information is subject to change.  Please contact distributor for most up-to-date prices and other distribution information.



57 minutes in English

Director: John Percival, Christopher Ralling, Andrew Harries and Mick Csaky

Distributor: Video Library Company

Price: $79.00 (purchase 8-part series)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Mastering a Continent is the second part of an eight-part series on Africa written and narrated by the distinguished historian of Africa, Basil Davidson.  This program focuses on the complex relationships between human societies and natural environments.  Through three detailed case studies Davidson illustrates the adaptive and creative genius of three geographically and socio-politically contrasted societies.


Critique:  This well produced program clearly demonstrates the complexity and sophistication in which a wide variety of African cultures/societies have not only adapted to but, in a sophisticated manner, have taken advantage of the natural environments in which the exist to develop complex cultural, economic, social and political beliefs, practices, and institutions.  The film illustrates these relationships through case studies of three disparate societies: the Pokot, cattle farmers in arid north west Kenya; the Noc, cultivators in the rainforests of southern Nigeria; and the Dogon, “urban” farmers in the savannahs of Mali. 


While the film does an excellent job in demonstrating how “traditional” African societies were highly sophisticated in mastering their environments, Davidson does not provide exemplars which would examine the relationship between human societies and their environments in contemporary Africa.  For example, there is no mention of the social or environmental impact of colonial land and labor policies or complexities of these relationships in urban settings where an increasing number of Africans live.


Recommended audience: Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate


56 minutes in English

Producer:  World Wide Fund for Nature International

Distributor:  Development Through Self‑Reliance (DSR)

Price:   $39.95 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  A series of short videos showing eight different WWF environmental projects in

Africa.  Short titles include:             The Bazaruto Archipelago: Saving a Coastal Eden, 7 min.

Sweet Success: Beekeeping in Malawi, 7 min.

The Kayas: Kenya's Sacred Groves, 8 min.

Zambia's Kafue Flats, 8 min.

Malawi: Land of the Lake, 6 min.

Madagascar: Wild Drugstore, 5 min.

Udzungwa Mountains, 7 min.

Mafia Island, 7 min.


Critique:  Africa Features/Tanzania Features is a compilation of eight short pieces that describe World Wildlife Fund (WWF) projects in Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Madagascar, and Tanzania.  The vignettes are well produced and address the important issue of involving local populations in conservation efforts in sustainable development.  The film highlights how the WWF goal of working with local people and being sensitive to their needs can operate effectively in different countries and ecosystems.


One criticism of the film is that is presents without question the assumption that people will act in an economically rational manner, provided with the opportunity to profit from ecologically sustainable practices.  Some of the vignettes uncritically raise the specter of over‑population as a source of environmental degradation while other sections blame slash and burn agricultural practices, although this is not a universally accepted conclusion within the scientific community.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



60 minutes in English

Written by: Ali Mazuri

Distributor: Annenberg/CPB Project

Price: $169.00 (purchase 10-part series)

Discussion guide: yes


Synopsis: This segment of the series The Africans focuses on the impact of economic policies initiated by successive colonial and post-colonial governments on the African environment.  Mazuri also assesses the social and economic effects on development.


Critique: Garden of Eden in Decay provides a generally balanced African perspective on development policies and their impact on the environment.  It provides a strong case for the linkage between the global economy and its demand for cheap resources and distorted development in many parts of Africa.  However, Mazuri doesn’t place all the blame for development mismanagement and environmental decay on colonials or neo-colonial economic relations.  He criticizes post-colonial African leadership for its mismanagement, corruption, and anti-democratic tendencies.


The film does rely on broad generalizations.  For example, in the beginning of this segment of the series, Mazuri makes an overly strong argument for environmental determinism.  He asserts unequivocally that people in northern climates were more technologically advanced because they had to be in order to survive.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate




29 minutes in English

Director: Sandra Nichols

Producer:  United Nations

Distributor:  First Run/Icarus Films

Price:  $190.00 (purchase)

Distributor: Church World Service Film and Video Library

Price: $0 (available for loan)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: The people of Sahelian Africa are recovering from a catastrophic drought which took place during the mid‑1980s.  This documentary focuses on the Niger, where communities are charting new paths to find ways to minimize the risk of a repeat tragedy.


Critique:  An African Recovery chronicles the Sahelian drought of the mid‑1980s and the efforts made by rural planners and community members to develop agriculture in Niger.  The film features the  personal perspectives of those impacted by the drought and highlights local initiatives to solve the problems the drought brings.


The film, however, neglects to explain the social forces that contribute to famine and hunger.  Therefore, a teacher might consider discussing the structure of pastoral societies with students before showing the video.  Background materials on the causes of environmental degradation might also be provided to students.  The film appears to be a bit dated.


Recommended audience: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate


52 minutes

Producer: Roger Pyke with the National Film Board of Canada

Distributor: Filmakers Library

Price: $445.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: This film documents the impact of the AIDS virus in several African countries, including Uganda, Zaire, the Ivory Coast, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Africa.  The documentary uses interviews with men and women infected with the virus to illustrate the ramifications of the disease and the complexities of combating its spread.


Critique: The AMP was unable to review this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




(Angano...Angano: Tales from Madagascar), 1989

64 minutes in Malagasy with English subtitles

Director:  Cesar Paes

Distributor:  California Newsreel

Price:  $195.00 (purchase), $95.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: Angano . . . Angano: Nouvelles de Madagascar is an ethnographic film that explores the Malagasy oral tradition of the passing down of wisdom through myths and folktales. It features storytellers retelling some of these stories. It also shows Malagasy life and Madacascar’s landscape.


Critique: Angano...Angano: Nouvelles de Madagascar pioneers a new approach to ethnographic filmmaking, at once scrupulously non‑interpretative yet deeply evocative. The central character in Angano...Angano... is the oral tradition itself which passes down the wisdom of the ancestors, the "ear's inheritance," through myths and folktales. Venerable storytellers recount for the camera and their listeners the founding myths of Malagasy culture. The filmmakers do not dramatize these tales; rather they document story‑telling itself by placing it in its social and geographical context. The tales flow into and out of stunning shots of the daily Malagasy life which gave them life and which they in turn explain.

(From California Newsreel distributor information)


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate







16 minutes in English

Director:  Mariama Hima

Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences

Price: $99.00 (purchase)  $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: Baabu Banza clearly demonstrates how citizens in urban townships in Niamey, Niger creatively make use of materials discarded by industries and more affluent consumers.  The Hausa phrase baaba banza (nothing is wasted) organizes the film.


Critique: This is a well produced film that demonstrates convincingly the realities of the parallel economy in urban Africa.  Township artisans and consumers take advantage of products created from re‑used and recycled materials.  The film's portrayals are sympathetic and non‑paternalistic.  The film is perhaps too short, and therefore cannot address issues of the political economy, which creates disparities of wealth and access to the mainstream/ formal economy. 


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, undergraduate        




35 minutes

Producer:  UNICEF

Distributor: Television for the Environment (TVE)

Price:  $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This film visits three African countries and looks at how the provision of health care has been transformed by involving local people and their resources, highlighting the way small‑scale solutions can pay large dividends.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




19 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Distributor: New Yorker Films

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: Sembene portrays a day in the life of a borom sarret (horsecart driver) trying to earn a living in urban Dakar, Senegal in this narrative short film.


Critique: A poignant depiction of the lives of the urban poor throughout the Third World. The film is obviously slanted in order to make its point. The point, therefore, is well made. The driver of the cart cannot bring himself to charge his neighbors, and conversely he is cheated by the wealthy customer. The driver's only crime is poverty, and the system is geared to punish him for it. Sembene, in this early film, addresses the problems that are common to most of his work: the futile dependence on religion by the illiterate, the insensitivity of the elite to the problems of their poorer countrymen, and the loss or deprival of even the most basic means of employment and dignity.


The photography and technical aspects of the film are somewhat dated, but they only add to the overall impact of the compact indictment of the exploitation of the poor in urban areas.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate




20 minutes

Director: Damien Rea

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price:    $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Damian Rea's award winning documentary explores the struggle for survival played out every day by both the people and the wildlife which share Botswana's drylands.  Despite the difficulties, the Botswana government is implementing a national conservation strategy, considered a model for other African countries seeking to apply sustainable development.  This film looks at how well the authorities are succeeding in applying conservation principles.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate





60 minutes in English

Director: Noel Buckner and Rob Whittlesey

Distributor: Video Library Company

Price: $9.95 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: Can the Elephant Be Saved? offers a look at the controversy over elephant conservation.   It shows how the elephant population has declined because of poaching, as well as how the ban on ivory has affected people who have depended on it as a means on income.


Critique:  Can the Elephant Be Saved? examines the reasons for declining elephant populations in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana and explores possibilities for wildlife conservation.  The film provides an informed and even‑handed look at land use options, including the internal and external factors that influence changes in land use. 


Through interviews with wildlife service workers, the film gives insight into the institutional and political dimensions of wildlife conservation.  The importance of tourism in the Kenyan and Zimbabwean economies is clearly presented along side the social and economic implications of other possible land uses.  The film also provides a good presentation of elephant biology.


One of the film's weaknesses is that it focuses on the perspectives of conservation agencies without giving voice to the small holding land managers who have the most to lose from conservation efforts.  The film also fails to account for recent developments in the Campfire program in Zimbabwe and the Kenyan Wildlife Services.


Recommended audience: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate


55 minutes in KiSwahili with English subtitles

Director: Hillie Molenaar and Joop van Wijk

Distributors: First Run/Icarus films. 

Price: $390 (purchase), $75 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Crossroads deals with the impact of the creation of a Rwandan refugee camp in Tanzania.  It details the conflicts and dynamics that emerged as a result of the genocide in Rwanda.


Critique:  Without narration, Crossroads features a number of vignettes by the people impacted by the Rwandan genocide. The film is set in Ngara, in Tanzania, just across the border from Rwanda.  The film does an exceptional job of presenting the perspectives of the refugees and their hosts in an unobtrusive manner, and it effectively points to the moral dilemmas that have arisen as a result of the influx of refugees.  For example, the film examines the issue of profiting economically from the refugees and the question of whether to treat the refugees as criminals or to deal with them compassionately.


The film's flaws are few.  The issue of genocide hovers over Crossroads, but the film fails to provide background information on the Rwandan genocide and resulting refugee problem, nor does it fully explore questions surrounding how the guilt among the refugees will be determined.   The film is out of date, although this certainly does not invalidate its worth.  The camps have been emptied and the refugees driven back into Rwanda since the film was made.  These weakness can easily be addressed by the instructor's discussion of the film.


Recommended audience: Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, graduate, undergraduate




24 minutes in English

Director: Eleanor Morris

Distributor: The Media Guild

Price: $295.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: yes


Synopsis: The Cutting Edge of Progress, produced by the BBC and Open University, is clearly intended for classroom use.  The film uses both archival propaganda film from the 1950s and footage from the 1990s to demonstrate the negative social and environmental impact of the construction of the Kriba Dam on the Zambezi River.


Critique: The film would be an effective tool in the classroom.  It uses archival footage to explain how the colonial regime in Rhodesia justified the displacement of indigenous peoples.  Current footage illustrates the negative, long‑term social, economic and environmental repercussions of the decision to construct the Kriba dam, such as the decline in the standard of living, soil erosion, limited economic options, out migration from the area, and the disempowerment of the Tonga peoples.


The film does have a few problems.  First, it fails to discuss the politics surrounding the building of the dam on the Zambezi River. Scientists and environmentalists who studied sites for the dam strongly recommended that the dam be built on the lower Kafue River, but this suggestion was vetoed by the Rhodesian government because the government feared that they would lose control of the dam if it were built in Northern Rhodesia. Furthermore, the story focuses on the Zambia side of Lake Kariba where less than one third of the displaced Tonga live.  In Zimbabwe, however, the displacement, and hence the long term effects, caused by the dam's construction were considerably greater.


Recommended audience: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate



 52 minutes

Producer: Mike Linley

Distributor: ITEL Worldwide Distribution

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: The Desert and the Deep Blue Sea looks at the pressure being placed on Banc d'Arguin National Park to allow commercial fishing on its grounds. This step could prove disastrous to both the wildlife and the local fishermen.


Critique: The Desert and the Deep Blue Sea is a beautifully photographed wildlife film focusing on the varieties of birds that nest within Mauritania’s national park Banc D’Arquin.  This park is part barren desert and part plush sea coast, the two environments only separated by a large bar of sand.  Other living things such as beetles, locusts, and gazelle are also featured.  Peripheral to the film’s focus are the people who live in the park.  The Imragen, a Berber ethnic group, have lived in this harsh environment virtually living off the sea.  They used to herd cattle and only fish for part of the year, but a drought of over 16 years has forced them to live off the sea all year round.  Since there is no other vegetation for food, the Imragen trade their catch for all other necessities, including drinking water. 


The film discusses potential challenges and changes to the park.  For instance, motorized boats and modern fishing equipment may be introduced for the fishing community and fishing licenses are being sold in increasing numbers to foreign, mostly from Europe, ships.  The implications of these developments could have good and bad consequences.


The Desert and the Deep Blue Sea is primarily a nature film that touches on how humans co-exist in  the environment of Banc D’Arquin.  The film raises some interesting issues of modernity and change, and the dilemma of Mauritania, a poor country, and its economic constraints.  Though Mauritanians and their fishing techniques are shown, the overbearing voice over does not give them a voice in defining their own situation.


Recommended audience: Natural Science, Social Science, graduate, undergraduate




59 minutes in English

Director: Glenn Ellis

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  In the oil‑rich Niger Delta, battles have broken out between local communities and Nigeria's military dictators, who use force to protect the flow of oil on which the government depends. For 30 years the Ogoni people have quietly endured military oppression and watched the effect of the oil operations on their environment. The Drilling Fields explores the relationship between Shell Petroleum Development Company and the Nigerian Government.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate


15 minutes in English

Director: Mark Winemaker

Distributor:  Church World Service Film and Video Library

Price: $0 (available for loan only)

Altschul Group

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: yes


Synopsis: The Earth that Feeds Us presents a look at agriculture, the environment, and food security.


Critique: In The Earth that Feeds Us, a Zimbabwean actress examines the origins of and solutions to environmental problems while visiting various places in Zimbabwe: a village, a farm, a market, and a school.  The film is tailored to a North American audience, and draws interesting parallels between problems such as drought in North America and Africa.


The Earth that Feeds Us does an excellent job of placing environmental problems and solutions in the context of the resource needs of rural people.  The film successfully reviews different schools of thought on the causes of deforestation and other environmental problems.  It shows that population growth alone is not responsible but that environmental problems stem from complex social, economic, and historical causes.


Recommended audiences: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate 




58 minutes in English

Director: Colin Willock

Distributor: ITEL Worldwide Distribution

Price: (unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This film features a description of Gelada baboon habitat and ecology of the Ethiopian highlands not often portrayed in nature films.


Critique:  The video does a decent job of describing the habitat and the general ecology of the highlands of Ethiopia. The video depicts a "living on the edge" image couched in an overall discussion of how difficult life is for both animals and humans living in this high altitude and very dry habitat.  In addition to general ecology, habitat, flora, and fauna of the area, there is a discussion of mountain pastoralists that seems to be reasonably well done with respect to the classic "people vs park" issue. That is, in protected areas (such as this Ethiopian national park) where humans are trying to carve out an existence in a harsh environment, there is often competition between humans and animals over limited resources.


With regard to the Gelada baboons, the descriptive information in this video is accurate. The facts on general diet and social behavior are correct in content. However, the appearance and discussion of primate accounts only for roughly 20% of the video. While factually correct, the video is not particularly fun. The narrator has an unappealing tone and the delivery of the facts is rather pedantic. Moreover, the photography team filming the animals on the escarpment is a bit too colonial, and the local inhabitants of the area are refers to as "the natives". These criticisms should not preclude the fact that this video offers an excellent description of a habitat and geographic area that is not often portrayed in nature films.

Recommended audiences:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate



96 minutes in English

Director: Tsitsi Dangaremba

Distributors: California Newsreel

Price: $195.00 (purchase), $95.00 (rental)

Development Through Self Reliance                                     

Price: $59.00 (purchase for individuals), $195.00 (purchase for universities)

Discussion guide: yes (from DSR)


Synopsis: Everyone’s Child is award winning novelist Tsitsi Dangaremba’s first feature film.  It tells the dramatic story of four children left orphaned after their mother succumbs to AIDS.    Tamari and Itai must find ways to take care of themselves and their younger siblings.  Tamari turns to prostitution and her brother heads to Harare.


Critique:  Everyone’s Child presents a sober critique of the impact of AIDS in Zimbabwe.  With funding from PLAN International and the British government’s Overseas Development Administration, Zimbabwean novelist Shimmer Chinodya was commissioned to develop the story.  The film’s director, novelist Tsitsi Dangaremba, is the first Zimbabwean woman to direct a feature film.  The film is an unambiguous effort to critique the way AIDS victims are treated in Zimbabwe and to encourage behavior modification to decrease the spread of the disease.  It achieves these ends through its straightforward realist story line and the use of characters who display stereotypical and negative behavior characteristics. 


The film’s production quality is not perfect.  For example, some dialogue is unintelligible. The story line is difficult to follow as scene to scene there is a lack of continuity, and some aspects of the plot need more explanation.  An instructor may want to preface the film with background information on the spread of AIDS in Africa and on African family structures.


Recommended audience: Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



EXODUS, 1995

50 minutes

Producer: Mick Rhodes

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This film explores how the influx of refugees from Rwanda overwhelmed both human and environmental resources in a Tanzanian town bordering Rwanda.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



20 minutes in English

Director: Frances Reid

Distributor: Development Through Self-Reliance

Price: $39.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: yes


Synopsis: The Faces of AIDS is a twenty minute advocacy video that uses interviews with Cameroonians and Zimbabweans, whose lives have been impacted by AIDS, to argue that those infected with the HIV virus deserves sympathy and support.


Critique:  The Faces of AIDS provides two valuable services.  It offers those with the disease the opportunity to hear the stories of others who have been affected by AIDS, and it challenges the negative representations and unsympathetic treatment of AIDS patients.  The video is unapologetic in its role as advocate, using the personal testimonials of the relatives of AIDS patients and  medical practitioners to humanize those who suffer with the disease.


As an advocacy video, it offers no facts on the causes of the disease or demographics of AIDS in Africa.  This can easily be addressed by an instructor in a discussion of the film.  A larger problem is with the video’s tenancy to re-iterate the generalization that many “traditional” African societies reject individuals with AIDS.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate





35 minutes in English

Director:  Kathy Austin

Distributor: The Video project

Price: $30.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: yes


Synopsis:  Forsaken Cries: The Story of Rwanda is an overview of the conditions leading up to and the reality of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and its aftermath.   Produced by the human rights organization, Amnesty International, this film considers the way we address the problem of genocide from a human rights point of view.  Includes interviews with Alison des Forges (historian), Richard Goldstone (International Criminal Court), and Amnesty International's Adotei Akwei.  An accompanying notebook of educational materials provides historical background to Rwanda, as well as resources for understanding human rights violations against women, the role of the international community, and the refugees' plight.


Critique:  This film does an excellent job of clearly presenting a background to ethnic genocide, and the elements systematically put in place to carry out such genocide. The film exposes the well‑laid plans of the Hutu extremists and powerful graphic images of the killing taking place and the dead bodies are shown.


Due to the violent content and complex political background of Forsaken Cries, it is recommended only for students in the upper high school grades or college years. Students need preparatory activities before viewing Forsaken Cries to give them both background information and some personal objectives and questions to ask as they watch the video.  Scenes of brutality will naturally evoke horrified responses, but by offering context, raising questions of accountability, and providing opportunities to respond with discussion and action, teachers can use Forsaken Cries to create valuable lessons about history, geography, current events, and international relations, as well as human rights and individual and collective social responsibility. When introducing the unit, the teacher needs to stress the seriousness of the subject and the fact that these events are not only real but also recent; their repercussions continue to have major impact on the international scene.  Before viewing the film, students need some warning it contains extremely upsetting footage.  Following the viewing, they may need to express their reactions to the film in pairs or small groups.

(By Nancy Flowers and Janet Schmidt, Educators Network, Amnesty International USA)


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




34 minutes in English (voice-over)

Director: Soren Kloch

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  In Zimbabwe, the villagers of Mototi play the lead roles in this hilarious drama about the importance of trees. Matahu plants saplings all over his land.  “A country is naked without trees,” he says. His friends think he is mad until they see with their own eyes what his trees do: help nourish the soil and prevent erosion, offer shade for his animals, and provide food, medicines and time.


Critique:  Fragile Riches features a dramatization of the efforts of a communal farmer in rural Zimbabwe to initiate a community based tree planting campaign as a means of stemming very serious soil erosion and degradation.  It is a “how-to” video and as such, is aimed at a rural Zimbabwean audience.  The film features village and agricultural environment scenes and shows how the villagers take active roles in fighting soil erosion.


The film’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.  It is an excellent exemplar of a develop-education advocacy film produced by a governmental agency; it advocates community-based conservation efforts.  To use the film effectively in the classroom, a teacher should provide some contextualization related to Zimbabwe’s history and contemporary contestation over land access.


Recommended audiences: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




30 minutes in English

Director: Jamie Martin Escobal

Distributor: World Bank Electronic Media Products and Services

Price: $14.95 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Global Links: Curse of the Tropics looks at the effects of Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, on the people of the Volta River Valley in West Africa. The film discusses how clean water and health relate to national development as well as productivity.


Critique:  Global Links: The Curse of the Tropics argues that it is imperative for development planners to understand the dangers of tropical disease.  A strong case is made for the need to confront the destructive impact of river blindness, spread by the black fly.  In making its case, the film clearly explains what the disease is, how it is spread and the progress that has been made in fighting it.


The film does have a few weaknesses. The people impacted by the diseases and described in the film are not interviewed, and appear as part of the background in which the film is set.  The film also tends to romanticize, and victimize, those impacted by tropical disease.  The narrator, for instance, explains that life in Africa is “very simple. ” Indigenous people are represented as if they are victimized by the environment, and although successful solutions to these diseases are described, such as the use of insecticides to eradicate the black fly, these solutions come from, and are implemented by, individuals from outside.   Finally, the film does not tell the viewer what country or city is being filmed, and so the tropical zone seems to be a seamless stretch of landscape.

Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




28 minutes in English             


Distributor:  World Bank Electronic Media Products and Services

Price: $14.95

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This video is useful as an introduction to the subject of Third World women by studying women from West Africa, Bolivia, Thailand, and the Caribbean. In these countries, the obstacles to improvement in women's situation are similar. The worldwide deprivation of female education, interconnected with structurally sexist laws and customs, work to the disadvantage of women. In many of these countries, the great majority of the agricultural work is done by women, even though development programs do not include them. The video also provides worldwide statistics: women constitute one‑half of the population, do two‑thirds of the work, earn one‑tenth of the income, but own only one percent of the property.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




45 minutes in English

Producer: Bruno Sorrentino

Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences

Price: $149.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Guardian of Africa: The Tsetse Fly deals with the harsh social and environmental realities confronting individuals and communities in tsetse fly infested areas of Kenya.  The film tells the story of how the deadly fly threatens the livelihoods of two families in rural Kenya: a Maasi Family in the semi-arid Rift Valley of south-central Kenya and a Luo family from the Lake Victoria area of western Kenya.


Critique:  Guardian of Africa: The Tsetse Fly forcefully illustrates the stark choices that individuals, families and communities must make for economic survival.  The film chronicles the threat the tsetse fly poses to the nomadic way of life.  Particularly poignant is the story of the Maasi family, who must choose between remaining in arid, grass less areas free of flies where the cattle find little to eat, or moving into the lush forest, infested by the tsetse flies whose deadly bites might exterminate an entire herd of cattle.


The video is a bit too long, but a more urgent criticism deals with the primary focus accorded the white, ex-patriot veterinarian, Dr. P. Stevenson, in the film.   As an individual and a professional, he provided an invaluable service to the community, but the film presents him as the voice of authority and science.  One particularly problematic moment occurs when Dr. Stevenson’s African assistant, who remains nameless in the film, draws blood from a cow, without gloves.  The doctor, who simply watches the procedure, on the other hand, is protected with gloves.


Recommended audiences:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, graduate, undergraduate


GUELWAAR, 1993    

115 minutes in French and Wolof with English subtitles

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Distributor: New Yorker Films

Price: $200.00 - $400.00 (rental of 16mm or 35mm film)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  A comic portrayal of contemporary Africa where a Christian man is mistakenly buried in a Muslim cemetery.  The resulting conflict between the two religious communities follows.  In the end, there is an indictment of two evils: indigenous African corruption and neocolonial Western aid.


Critique: The AMP was unable to review this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



GUERRA DA AGUA (A Water War), 1995

70 minutes in Portuguese with English subtitles

Director: Licinio Azevedo

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  In the heart of drought-prone Mozambique, 10,000 people are surviving on water from just four boreholes.  Lucinio Azevedo’s memorable film chronicles the tragi-comic dramas involved in the daily scramble for water in rural community.


Critique:  The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




21 minutes in English

Director: Paulo Ducassa

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: This video documents the Nigerian Conservation Foundation’s workshop that created “The Market” which was the first episode of a weekly puppet show on Nigerian television portraying the adverse effects of deforestation on the everyday lives of Nigerians.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate



HARVEST: 3000 YEARS, 1975

150 minutes in Amharic with English subtitles

Director: Haile Gerima

Distributor: Mypheduh Films

Price: $34.99 (purchase for individuals), $300.00 (purchase for universities)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Harvest: 3000 Years is a dramatization of a peasant family's struggle for survival on the farm of a wealthy landowner in Ethiopia.


Critique: In its depiction of Ethiopian peasant life and the struggle to survive, Harvest: 3000 Years is unique and quite excellent. The use of a fictionalized, ethnographic style allows the audience to become involved with the family portrayed and to understand their needs and aspirations. Though the filmmaker espouses a specific political view‑ point, this viewpoint does not affect the accuracy of the lifestyle presented. The photography combines with a slowly paced editing style to reflect the centuries of long struggle expressed by the title. As mentioned above, some background information may be necessary for certain audiences, but viewed strictly as cinema, the film is complete and powerful.


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




58 minutes in English and Twi with English voice over

Director: J. Scott Dodds

Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences

Price: $129.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Healers of Ghana looks at efforts to bring traditional healers and Western doctors into contact and argues for the integration of the two health services.  The film deals primarily with the Akan people of Ghana and includes interviews with the healers, doctors, a university professor, and individuals from the World Health Organization. 


Critique:  Healers of Ghana offers a positive image of traditional medical and spiritual practices in Ghana and attempts to understand how these practices function in specific historical and cultural settings among the Akan.  Dr. Kofi Opoku, a professor at the University of Ghana, explains that witch catchers and healers strive to maintain the physical and mental health of the entire village.  The film makes a convincing case for the integration of traditional and Western practices and highlights a program funded by the World health Organization called “Primary Health care Training for Indigenous Healers.”  In this program, Western medical professionals teach indigenous healers about primary care techniques.  One segment of the film features an interview with a Western doctor who describes the success traditional healers have had with setting broken bones.  He suggests that this is one area where Western medicine can learn from indigenous healers.


One of the weaknesses of the film is that although an argument is made for integration among providers of health care, Western medicine is presented as the most valid approach.  


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate


85 minutes                                                      

Director: Robert Richter

Distributor: PBS

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This film depicts the failure of the "Green Revolution" in several Third World countries and the consequent devastating effects of agribusiness. Agribusinesses, depicted in the film as the collaboration between local Third World governments and First World companies, violently remove local farmers, ruin the soil, and therefore have a direct negative influence on hunger in the Third World by completely ignoring the growth of food crops and the nutrition of local people. These events also lead to increased migration from rural to urban areas, and to spiraling urban overcrowding and further underemployment.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




49 minutes

Producer: Eleanor Morris

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Living with Drought examines how rural communities in Niger and Kenya are responding to the severe changes wrought in their environment by climate change, poverty and population pressures.  Soil and water conservation projects - such as stone terracing and tree wind-breaks - have helped improve crop yields by as much as 25 percent in some cases.


Critique: Living with Drought presents an in-depth analysis of micro-level initiatives in conservation and sustainable agriculture in semi-arid areas of Africa.  The film does a fine job explaining the technical aspects of erosion and control and reforestation.  It neither exaggerates nor minimizes the problems associated with conservation and demonstrates how local groups and international organizations can collaborate to confront environmental difficulties.  The importance of community participation and support in all levels of planning for and implementation of conservation initiatives is stressed.


The film’s primary weakness lies in what it does not discuss.  For example, the film does not assess the impact of commercial agriculture on land degradation and water resource management, and there is no discussion of the role of globalization in environmental degradation.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



52 minutes

Director: Ole Gjerstad

Distributor: International Development Research Centre

Price: $19.95 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: This film focuses on the diminishing nomadic lifestyle of the Masai of Kenya.  Modern pressures of the need to “develop” have caused the Masai to adopt sedentary lifestyles, migrate to Nairobi, or struggle with land ownership issues.


Critique: The AMP was unable to review this film for critique.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate




57 minutes                                           

Director: Chris Sheppard and Claude Savaugeot

Distributor: IDERA

Price: $150.00 (purchase), $50.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Man‑Made Famine examines some of the reasons for famine in Africa.  This film particularly looks at the role of women in food production through the stories of women from Kenya, Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso, and questions the male bias of most agricultural development projects.


Critique:This film identifies the causes of famine in Africa. First, women do not have enough time for subsistence crop production, as they are the major food producers in Africa and also have responsibilities for domestic work (in which men do not share responsibility). Second, the increase in cash crops works to the detriment of women, by denying them access to land and increasing their labor‑intensive work. Third, male migration causes women to change their production regimens, thereby making it difficult for them to maintain levels of productivity. Fourth, women do not control land or the factors of production, so their ability to produce food crops is impeded. The movie also faults development agencies and backs up its position with statistics; for example, although African women perform up to 80 percent of Africa's agriculture, only 0.5 percent of all agricultural aid goes to women. The film ends in an optimistic note by showing how women in Zimbabwe are organizing to affect change in their lives.


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




50 minutes in English

Production Company: BBC

Distributor: Pennsylvania State University, Audio Visual Services

Price: $36.00 (rental for 3 days)


Synopsis:  Nigeria: A Squandering of Riches is a documentary that explores the situation in Nigeria prior to the military coup of December 1983.  Onyeka Onwenu, a Nigerian journalist, interviews bankers, street traders, and farmers about the rising dissatisfaction with the economy and government.


Critique: The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




57 minutes in English and Swahili

Director: Lars Brydesen

Distributor: (information unavailable)

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  The film, Once There Was A Forest, shows a balanced historical analysis of the agricultural problems facing an East African community of the Usambara region of Tanzania. It shows the efforts of this community to restore a once preserved habitat which is now destroyed through deforestation instituted by German colonialists prior to Tanzanian independence.


Critique:  Once There Was A Forest is the salutary story of the exploitation of  the Usambara Mountains, which tower 2,5000 meters over the Masai plains in northeastern Tanzania, and  the efforts the Tanzanians themselves are now making to re‑establish them.  Sambaa farmers, who built their villagers high up the mountain sides, observed clearly defined rules when cultivating their forest gardens.  They never used fire to clear the forest, never cut living trees, never weeded their crops but spread the debris from plants on the ground to rot, forming a rich biomass to fertilize the soil.  They built up their fields in layers, exploiting every available space; banana palms grew in the shade of trees that fixed the mitogen in the ground, and cassava, fruit bushed, beans ‑ up to 30 different plant species ‑ were cultivated in strips beside them.  The water that flowed through their gardens was crystal clear: little of the soil was carried away by the rivers, and few of the nutrients were leached from the system.


But, with European colonization, the whole pattern of Sambaa cultivation fell into decay.  In one interview, Kihobo, an old man who claims to be 115, recalls the arrival of white men, come to spread the word of God ‑ and how the Sambaa themselves regretted them with deep suspicion because they had no wives.  The local king directed the white missionaries to a plot of land under a great tree, inhabited by evil spirits, to build their first church.  Tree and church still stand today, the old man remarks, but the demons in the tree have fallen silent.


Even after Tanzania gained its independence in 1961, the forests continued to disappear.  The Tanzanians had watched their white masters grow rich from selling their trees, and they thought that they would be rich in their turn, imitating them.  Up to four hectares of land was given, free, to prospective new farmers.  Within two years over 13,000 hectares of forest was burnt off.  At first the new land was incredibly fertile.  Farmers sowed maize, which grew fast and provided good yields.  Maize became the dominant crop, with golden maize stalks stretching as far as the eye could see.  But the farmers gave the land no time to rest, and within 10 years the forest soil was exhausted.  The rains carried the fertile topsoil down into the valleys below, and wind and rain began to turn the mountain sides into a barren moonscape.


But not, again, the film argues.  There is optimism among the Sambaa.  No‑one believes in monoculture any longer.  There is a revival of traditional African methods of agriculture: trees are being planted and agroforestry encouraged.  Over 100 trees nurseries have been put up to supply young trees, and in six months 10,000 trees will be ready to distribute, free, to farmers in the highlands.  Soil is still being ruined in the Usambara Mountains, and the population is increasing faster than ever.  It's race against time ‑‑ but once again trees are respected and revered by the people.

(Critique adapted from Moving Pictures Bulletin's Catalog)


Recommended audience: Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate


39 minutes in English

Director: Damien Lewis

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This film provides case studies of two rain forest conservation projects in Cameroon.  The International Council for Bird Preservation project in the Korup National Park utilized local expertise and was small scale.  While the World Wild Fund for Nature project in the Kilum Mountain Forest initially moved people out of the forest to implement its large scale plan.


Critique:  The AMP was unable to review this film for critique.


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




27 minutes in English

Producer: National Geographic Society’s Television Division

Distributor: National Geographic Society

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: yes


Synopsis:  Physical Geography of the Continents: Africa offers a straightforward summary of the physical and vegetational geography of Africa.


Critique:  Physical Geography of the Continents: Africa covers an immense amount of material about the physical geography of African in the length of this short film.  It provides for an appreciation of the geographical diversity of the continent through breathtaking scenes of the physical landscape.  The film is well organized, travailing from north to south, and includes effective maps and graphs.


The film has a few weaknesses.  It aims to cover a vast amount of material in a short time, and consequently leaves one with the impression that the African environment consists of a series of isolated situations.  Additionally, the film virtually ignores human populations, and when human beings are discussed in relation to the environment, they are represented as threats.  For instance, the film argues that “human activity” threatens the existence of “unique animals,” and slash and burn agriculture is blamed for clearing the savannah of trees and wildlife.  These propositions, presented through an authoritative narrative voice, are offered as facts with little discussion of other theories on the causes of environmental degradation.  Finally, the film fails to situate the spectator in an exact location in Africa.  An instructor who uses the film might want to show students a map of the continent and point out the countries and cities the film describes.


Recommended audience: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




28 minutes in English

Producer: The World Bank

Distributor: United Nations Division of Public Affairs

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  The film presents a study of river blindness, its effects on communities along the Volta River, and efforts to eliminate the disease. 


Critique:  Though one of the main purposes of this film is to discuss the efforts of international organizations such as the World Bank to eradicate river blindness, the film also touches briefly on other aspects of the disease: historical and geographic location, social and economic impact upon the villages, and cause, symptom, and treatment. The use of interviews with expert witnesses gives the film added credibility. For advanced level courses, many of the topics such as resettlement of villages and ecological problems caused by spraying insecticides should be more thoroughly discussed; however, as a whole the film is sound technically and thematically and is recommended. 


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




52  minutes in English

Director: Maarten Schmidt and Thomas Doebele

Distributor: First Run/Icarus Films

Price: $390.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Politics Do Not a Banquet Make explores the theme stated by a former soldier, “You can’t eat politics like you can eat bread.”  The film uses interviews with a wide variety of individuals from Tigray, Ethiopia to investigate the relationships among war, politics and hunger.


Critique:  Politics Do Not a Banquet Make provides audiences with a wide array of perspectives on issues of politics and survival in post-revolutionary Ethiopia, including men and women, peasant farmers, urban, un-employed workers, former soldiers, business elites, government officials, Meles Zenawi, the current prime minister, and a leading newspaper editor.  The film accurately portrays rural life in Tigray and illustrates that rural people are setting their own priorities.  The video celebrates the tremendous strength of Ethiopians without romanticizing them.


One small criticism of the film is that it is too long and might be difficult to use in an undergraduate classroom.  The focus of the film is limited;  it is centered on Tigray, the home of the current Ethiopian leadership, and although many critiques of the current government are included, the film adopts a position supportive of the Zenawi regime.  An instructor might want to supplement the film with background material on the transition of power in Ethiopia.


Recommended Audience:  Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate




24 minutes in English

Producer: Patti Langton

Distributor: The Media Guild                              

Price: $245.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: yes


Synopsis:  The Poverty Complex is one film in The Third World Development Series.  The film examines all sides of poverty and explores the underlying causes and potential solutions.


Critique:  The Poverty Complex offers a concise and direct look at hunger and poverty.  The film addresses how famine, structural adjustment policies, debt repayment, low commodity prices, historical and cultural factors, local conditions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund impact the lives of people in Sudan, Chad, India, Bangladesh, the United States, and Brazil.  The film features shots from Africa, but also effectively examines poverty from an international perspective.  It does a fine job critiquing media presentations of poverty and argues effectively for the need to distinguish between famine and poverty.


The broad scope of the film prevents it from exploring poverty and famine in detail.  Therefore, the film fails to provide adequate explanation of issues such as structural adjustment, and debt and commodity pricing.  The film is highly critical of the World Bank and World Bank policy; yet, it lacks careful explanation of what the Bank is and how it operates.


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




36 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Huub Ruijgrok

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This film looks at the large areas of Senegal that are suffering from desertification and the encroaching desert.  The effect of these environmental changes on the inhabitants of these areas and their livestock is also examined.  


Critique:  The AMP was unable to view this film for critique.


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




54 minutes in English

Director: Sharon Sopher

Distributor: Development through Self-Reliance

Price: $59.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Praying for Rain documents the terrible drought that hit Zimbabwe in 1992.


Critique:  Praying for Rain demonstrates how Zimbabweans worked together to avoid starvation, and subsequently, the country became the first in Africa to survive a lengthy drought without relying heavily on foreign assistance.  The video shows how the government financed successful food‑for‑work projects and established a distribution system that reached over half of the population. 


Praying for Rain examines the effects of the drought on wildlife and cattle herds and discusses the government's policy of culling animals.  Farmers and ranchers also describe the hardships that they suffered when their cattle herds were decimated.  Overall, Praying for Rain offers perspectives of the drought from Zimbabweans who lived through it.


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



QUAND LES ETOILES RENCONTRENT LA MER (When the Stars Meet the Sea), 1996

85 minutes In French and Malagasy with English subtitles

Director: Raymond Rajaonarivelo

Distributor: California Newsreel

Price: $195.00 (purchase), $95.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This tale follows the journey of Kapila, a young boy whose birth is cursed by the time of his birth.  He is born during a solar eclipse which dictates that he will possess destructive power in the Merina belief system.  His mother dies at childbirth and he is taken in and raised by a childless woman.  As a young man, he sets out on a quest to find himself and is eventually able to change his fate.


Critique:  Raymond Rajaonarivelo follows his epic first film on the Malagasy liberation struggle, Taba Taba, with a very different, poetic film exploring the relationship between traditional and modern concepts of human freedom. He writes: "In French magic and image are made from the same letters... In this film, there will be Magic as long as man is dependent on mysterious forces that overwhelm him, and Image when man has acquired enough power over space, time, and himself to no longer be afraid of his life."


As the title suggests, Rajaonarivelo frames his film around three visual symbols or leit motifs, sky, sea and, by implication, the land marooned between them or life between birth and death. Set among the island's high mesas, all the major characters dream of escaping this parched interior to return to the oceanic mother, Rano Masina or "sacred water" in Malagasy. Rajaonarivelo characterizes life in the arid highlands, whether in the superstitious village or the corrupt city, as unremittingly predatory. A recurrent dream of a gently breaking surf turning into pounding cattle hooves symbolizes the human tension between infinite and earthbound.


Destiny or vintana plays a key role in the belief system of the Merina people of these high plateaus. The day and month of a child's birth are believed to determine its fate; a child born during a solar eclipse, a liminal time when sun and moon are at war, is believed to possess especially destructive powers. Tradition demands that its father must place it in a cattle pen where it will be trampled to death.


The hero of this film is such a child; his mother died in childbirth but he is rescued from his fate by a young, childless woman and named Kapila, "the lame one," because of an injury he suffered in the corral. He grows into a kind but frightened young man, in effect, a stowaway in life, who supposedly can only bring evil on those around him. His adoptive mother weaves the shrouds in which the Malagasy bury, exhume and then rebury their ancestors and Kapila wears one until his ultimate liberation.


Parallel to his protective adopted mother, Kapila encounters at key moments a wrathful, blind old woman, who taunts him that he cannot avoid his destructive destiny and gives him a staff of vengeance. She may be a bilo, a dead spirit possessing Kapila's body, or the ghost of one of his ancestors (perhaps his dead mother) or just a mpaamosavy or sorceress. No doubt, she also represents a repressed part of Kapila's psyche, a shadow self, enraged that society has stigmatized him as the source of calamity.


As in any quest narrative, Kapila must embark on a journey to discover his true identity and purpose in life. Rajaonarivelo's crippled hero has resonances with other myths, most obviously Sundjata and Oedipus. Kapila leaves his mother and flies on the wings of a hawk over a vast wasteland to his natal village. There he confronts his father, The Poet, a madman who believes he can fly away from human cruelty and his own guilt. He tells his son: "Nature is as beautiful as a woman yet she has something against us; she inhabits us and forces us to do things we find revolting. Your powers too are only an instrument of her will."


The villagers, led by a hypocritical Christian priest and a traditional diviner, hunt Kapila like an animal. He survives again through the love of another young woman, Fara, a beautiful, fair‑skinned métisse, an outsider marked by difference like himself. Disgusted with the cycle of hate, Kapila climbs the mountain of the ancestors, of tradition, and throws away the sorceress' cane, the source of his magical powers. This unintentionally unleashes a purifying deluge which destroys the village.


In thus repudiating his destiny Kapila has ironically fulfilled it. His and Fara's love and commitment to living literally and symbolically annihilate the old cycle of destiny; the villagers by clinging to their belief in destiny insure that it comes true. In the closing sequence reprising the opening, Kapila's father again tries to kill his son by stampeding the cattle, but when they see Kapila embracing Fara they turn upon his father trampling him to death. As he wished, he is cremated in the same corral where Kapila was wounded, freed at last to rejoin the wind and the stars.


In the film's final shot, Kapila and a visibly pregnant Fara at last stand on the shore, the threshold between land and water and between destiny and desire, the place where the stars and the sea meet. Kapila has paradoxically discovered his own identity only by rejecting his connections with his past ‑ his adoptive mother, his father, even his ancestral homeland. His destiny has, in a sense, been to break free of destiny. He and Fara, outsiders joined by love not custom, have given birth to a new world governed not by magic and fate but by love and imagination.

(From California Newsreel distributor information.)


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate


RABI, 1992

61 minutes in More with English subtitles

Director: Gaston Kabore

Distributor: Bullfrog Films

Price: $150.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Rabi is a modern day fable using traditional African story-telling techniques.  The film is a gentle, enigmatic exploration of the relationships that Rabi builds with his father, his grandfather, his tortoise, and his own  conscience.


Critique:  Rabi tells the story of a young boy who, through the guidance of an old man, Old Pusga, learns to respect nature.  The film successfully explores environmental and conservation themes in a rural African setting.  Rabi's father is a blacksmith, and he complains about the scarcity of charcoal due to the diminishing forests.  One section of the film features a conversation between Rabi and the personified tortoise, and the tortoise conveys a vital message about the harsh treatment of poachers.


Although the ecological content is useful, the film takes a long while to broach the topic of deforestation.  Until then, the film focuses mainly on Rabi's interactions with the tortoise and Old Pusga.  The translations are, at points, incomplete, and the film fails to locate its narrative within a specific country and village.  Despite these weakness, Rabi is a good film that might be useful in an Ecology or Environmental Studies classroom.


Recommended audience: Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate




10 one-hour programs in English

Producer: John Angier and Carol L. Dornbrand for WGBH Science Unit et al.

Distributor: Annenberg/CPB Projects

Price: $39.00 (purchase single videocassettes), $169.00 (purchase whole set)

Discussion guide: yes, available for purchase


Synopsis:  A ten-part television production that looks at environmental problems across the globe.  Part one of the series, The Environmental Revolution focuses on the San in Botswana documenting their dependence and harmony with the environment.  Part ten, Now or Never, illustrates the efforts of individuals to affect positive change for the future of the environment with focus on the Greenpeace Movement in Kenya.


Critique:  The AMP was unable to review these films for critique.


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



RAIN SONG  (part of The Lost World of the Kalahari series), 1991

28 minutes in English voice-over

Director: Nicholas Claxton

Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences

Price: $89.00 (purchase)

Distributor guide: no


Synopsis:  This film is part of a six-part ethnographic series on the Khoi-San peoples produced by Laurens van der Post.  Rain Song focuses on two themes: the coming of the annual rains to the Kalahari, and the courtship rituals among the Khoi-San


Critique:  The only strength of Rain Song is its representation of mid-century ethnographic representation of the Khoi-San.  The film relies on gross stereotypical representations of the Khoi-San in their “timeless” and essentialized existence.  This pristine way of life, predictably, is threatened by Western “civilization.”


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate




53 minutes

Director: Bruno Sorrentino

Distributor: Television for the Environment            

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Distributor guide: no


Synopsis:  In Bruno Sorrentino’s award-winning documentary, three aid projects compete against a deteriorating environment in Northern Mali, the inner delta and lake district of the great River Niger.  Lake Fagubine, once the biggest lake in West Africa, is now a dried-out plain.  But one man has a dream to bring the waters flooding back into the lake, and so bring back the 60,000 environmental refugees who abandoned their homes during the great drought.


Critique:  Rivers of Sand deals realistically with myriad problems confronting rural communities in the Sahel region related to drought, desertification, social dislocation, and ethnic conflict.  The film provides the opportunity to hear a diversity of local perspectives, including a marginalized group of women and uses these narratives effectively to maintain viewer’s interest.  Rivers of Sand clearly supports the idea of strong local participation in projects aimed at ameliorating the impact of drought and desertification. 


One of the main weakness of the film is that it is too long, especially for use in an undergraduate classroom.  The film also fails to include a historical explanation for the environmental problems it describes nor does it devote much time to a discussion of the social consequences of drought and desertification.


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




27 minutes in English

Director: David Springbett

Distributor:  Church World Service Film and Video Library

Price: $0 (available for loan)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Roots of Hunger, Roots of Change is a half hour film that lays bare crucial issues of Third World development in the context of a single case.


Critique:  The film provides a close‑up examination of a Church World Service local development project in rural Senegal in a way that invites the viewer to experience the complex interrelationships of environment, history, politics and economics in framing the problems experienced by contemporary Senegalese farmers. Without ever losing its focus on the day‑to‑day experience of men and women living with drought and poverty, the film insists that we attend to the complex historical factors of French colonial expansion, the introduction of peanut farming and the transformation of a subsistence economy into a cash economy as the roots of current rural impoverishment. In a firm and economical narrative, accompanied by maps and old photographs and prints, the film argues that the devastating local effects of the current drought are not a natural disaster, but rather the product of political and economic arrangements of a dependent economy.


In the context of this explanatory framework, the film tells the story in the words and through the images of Senegalese men and women. The film focuses on a small number of rural families, and their efforts to survive in the arid countryside. Without romanticizing poverty or struggle, the film makers convey some of the matter‑of‑fact determination and spirit of the Senegalese who remain in the arid countryside, as well as their ties to family members struggling to accumulate some cash in the "informal economy" of an overcrowded Dakar. The film is consistently effective and economical in presenting concrete images of complex problems. Rural women are involved in day long and consistent labor drawing water from brackish wells, while the water of a nearby lake is polluted and unavailable to these rural Senegalese as it flows toward Dakar to be purified, at great cost, and provide for the needs of urban dwellers.


The film is not without flaws. There is a tendency, at times, for the narrator's voice to lead the viewer away from the message of the visual images. The logic of the documentary's labeling of events and issues concludes when it might question. Yes, the rural Senegalese are impressively plucky and optimistic as they dig their wells, but some of their laughter seems to arise from the fact that a camera crew is recording their activity. Overall, though, this film is very impressive in its clarity and directness. Its insistence on presenting a complex set of issues and causes, without slighting individual actors, and its ability to confront us with the more long‑term manifestations of the Sahellan drought, as problems that demand our attention make this a valuable film for stimulating discussion in introductory and more specialized classes on development. Hopefully, students will identify with the young Church World Service project director who works with local people to address the pieces of the problem that can be ameliorated at the local level. What is equally valuable is the film's insistence on the broader claim that only when we are willing to search out the roots of a problem can we explore the roots of change. The film has a clear and useful point of view which provides a framework for exploring the source of many Third World problems.


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate


SANGO MALO (The Village Teacher), 1991

94 minutes in French with English subtitles

Director: Bassek ba Kobhio

Distributor: California Newsreel

Price: $195.00 (purchase), $95.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Through the use of a popular theme in African cinema, traditional versus modern, filmmaker ba Kobhio tells the story of a young school teacher who brings new ideas to the village where he works.  The villagers come to embrace Malo but eventually they reject his ideas when he attempts to introduce change too quickly.  In the end, he has a positive impact on the village as the villages takes ownership in their own development. 


Critique:  Sango Malo offers American viewers an intimate and engaging portrait of the complex social dynamic underlying economic and political change in a typical African village. It argues passionately that a populist education must be a key component of any democratic, human‑centered development paradigm for Africa. Bassek ba Kobhio explains why his first feature focuses on education: "It is education which can form a new people...It is hard to think about changing African society without envisioning an appropriate form of education."


Sango Malo contrasts two views of education. The traditional headmaster represents a rigid, "Eurocentric" curriculum designed to produce docile colonial administrators. Malo, the radical young teacher, emphasizes the practical skills needed to build a self‑reliant rural community. The film illustrates Brazilian educator Paolo Freire's celebrated distinction between an education which the ruling class uses to inculcate its values in students' minds and one which empowers students to shape their own destiny.


Malo's innovative ideas soon spread to the rest of the village. With his help, the peasants establish a cooperative store and a cocoa marketing cooperative which undercut the power of the village chief, store owner and priest. When Malo alienates the villagers by demanding too rapid change, his enemies call in the army which arrests and imprisons him.


But Malo has taught his lessons so well the villagers can carry on his reforms without him. In the last, open‑ended shot, the camera discretely pulls back as the peasants celebrate a future they themselves will make. The narrative thrust, the responsibility for development, no longer lies with the village elite, nor the progressive schoolmaster, nor even the socially‑engaged filmmaker,but has passed to the peasants themselves and to the African audiences viewing the film.


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




33 minutes in English and Afrikaans with English subtitles

Director: Laurence Dworkin

Distributor: (information unavailable)

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: Season of Hope demonstrates through contemporary and historic video footage and personal interviews the impact of sever racial discrimination on the environment, The film examines land degradation and desertification in four rural South African communities.


Critique: Season of Hope is a short film that offers a thorough demonstration of the impact of racist land and labor policies on land degradation and desertification in four rural communities in South Africa.  The film provides a good technical analysis  and explanation of desertification and explores potential interventions, allowing for a diversity of impacted “voices” in a non-threatening and unobtrusive manner.  Perhaps the only problem with the film is that it is often dense and may therefore be difficult to use in an undergraduate classroom.  In order to deal with this, an instructor could provide students with background information on the environmental heritage of centuries of racial discrimination followed by fifty years of apartheid in South Africa.


Recommended audience: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, graduate




52 minutes in English

Director: Lawrence Moore

Distributor:THA Media

Price: Canadian $199.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Sex, Lemurs and Holes in the Sky is a serious exploration of the linked issues of population, consumption, poverty and the environment.  The film contrasts the lifestyles of two families on two very different islands:  Madagascar and Manhattan.


Critique:  Sex, Lemurs and Holes in the Sky juxtaposes the cultures of Madagascar and Manhattan, and is one of few films that examines the consumption patterns of the industrial world in relation to the role of poverty in consumption and reproduction in the developing world.  The film follows a family from Madagascar and a family from Manhattan to highlight the stark differences in consumption habits and reproductive practices between the two cultures. Cross-cutting between the two families emphasizes the cultural specificity of the environmental problems of each place and suggests that both the developed and developing world affect the global environment.


The film presents an important idea effectively: environmental problems are global problems to which both the industrial and developing worlds contribute.  However, in its discussion of Madagascar, Sex, Lemurs and Holes in the Sky adopts a Malthusian approach to environmental problems, attributing environmental destruction to poor farmers who employ burning techniques to clear the land.  The film excludes an examination of how the history of forced migration and slavery and contemporary land privatization and structural adjustment programs have impacted the environment negatively.  Furthermore, farming is described inappropriately as a male activity.


Despite these criticisms, this film could be a useful tool in the classroom.  An instructor should highlight the film’s weaknesses and offer an explanation of how distinct groups interact differently with the environment.  Discussion of the film should also explore the historical context out of which environmental problems emerge and examine the global economic links to deforestation in Madagascar.


Recommended audience:  Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



SIDET (Forced Exile), 1991

60 minutes

Director: Salem Mekuria

Distributor: Women Make Movies

Price: $295.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no   


Synopsis:  Salem Mekuria, an Ethiopian living in the United States, explores the impact of civil war in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan and what happens to people in exile. This film illustrates the lives of three women in Sudan struggling to create a life in exile.  This film illustrates the ways in which the tradition of refugee aid has perpetuated near‑death conditions and initiated projects that are meaningless. It concludes with the question, "Is it possible to get beyond the crippling concept of handouts to reach the able and the willing so they can help themselves while they wait to return?"


Critique:  The AMP was unable to review this film for critique.

Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate




52 minutes

Director: Jamie Hartzell

Distributor: Filmakers Library

Price: $445.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  South Africa: The Wasted Land deals with the relationship between apartheid and environmental degradation. The film is structured in two parts.  The first concentrates on rural conditions and erosion caused by overcrowding.  The second part shifts emphasis to problems of industrial pollution and toxic waste.  


Critique:  In South Africa: The Wasted Land white South African experts interviewed (economist Professor Francis Wilson, environmental journalist Eddie Koch, and rural development activist Richard Clacey) provide the social explanations for environmental decay, while ordinary black people describe their social experiences, and Dr Mamphele Ramphele the psycho‑social implications of this condition.   The inferior quality of land in the Bantustans must be measured in terms of population densities, productivity, location, access to farming technology, as must the displacement of black laborers from white commercial farms.


South Africa: The Wasted Land lacks a geographical approach in its explanation of the extent and nature of chemical and toxic waste in South Africa's cities.  Little indication is given of the extent and location of air pollution and toxic waste.  The worst afflicted areas of the Southern and Eastern Transvaal are not examined. The film shows correctly that the effects of toxic waste are not confined to black areas, as indicated sensitively in interviews with white mothers regarding the health problems of their small children.  Causation of the two different forms of environmental degradation -- overcrowding and industrial pollution - is attributed by the film to apartheid alone.  In fact, degradation occurs in most countries and in South Africa as elsewhere, has more to do with inadequate state regulation and uncontrolled development strategies, than with political ideologies.  That the problem of waste and environmental decay is a systemic problem is underlined by Ramphele who says at the end of the film that these problems will continue even after apartheid.  


The most powerful images in the film are the devastating effects of raw asbestos and toxic waste on public health. Chilling shots of black children playing on mounds of untreated asbestos are shocking, as are interviews with miners who are dying from lung diseases.  Neither the location of these shots is revealed and nor is the problem of raw asbestos dumps as widespread as suggested, although processed asbestos continues to be used widely in construction, furniture, motor and industrial products.  The clandestinely filmed interview with a hostile white farmer shows his tenant farmers' houses being bulldozed, and portrays the brutality and contradictions of apartheid:  "black people can't survive without white people", he says. Yet the whites continue with their destruction of black social fabrics.


Overall, the film offers an over‑generalized review of the relationship between apartheid and environmental destruction.  It lacks geographical, conceptual and statistical specificity.  For the sake of brevity, and with crude cynical effect, the narrator aggregates Bantustan governmental conservation strategies, implying that they are all the same, (mis)managed by a single unidentified `Trust'.  This assertion is incorrect as the different Bantustans had developed specific conservation policies, and some none at all. Differences in location, climate, soil quality and conservation strategies between the Bantustans are also ignored.  Misleading statements such as the one that South Africa is one of the world's biggest agricultural exporters, seriously mar the accuracy of the narration.  The statement that black farmers are unpaid is incorrect.  Their pay may be very low, but it seems that the film was referring to specific sharecroppers, who are the minority.

(Written by Keyan G Tomaselli and MSU Evaluators, 1990).

Published with M. Eke and V. Khapoya:  "South Africa:  The Wasted Land", SA Geographical Journal, 74(1).


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




53 minutes in English

Director: Toni Strasburg

Distributor: Television for the Environment

Price: $70.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  This documentary looks at the devastating effects of the 15-year civil war in Mozambique.  In particular, the film examines how the war was financed at the expense of the environment--elephants tusks were sold to South Africa for arms.  Post-war attempts to revive the tourist industry and implement conservation measures sensitive to the needs of the people are also documented in the film.


Critique:  The AMP was unable to review this film for critique.


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Humanities, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate



TA DONA, 1991

100 minutes in Bambara with English subtitles

Director: Adama Drabo

Distributor:  California Newsreel.

Price: $195.00 (purchase), $95.00 (rental)

Distributors: IDERA

Price: (unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  A young Bambara agricultural expert, while working in a peasant village, also searches for the seventh canari, a forgotten, secret Bambara remedy used in childbirth.  Faced with a serious drought and government corruption, he is able to save the village and rediscover the seventh canari.  In the process, he achieves a new identity that reconciles Africa's past and present.


Critique: Ta Dona has been praised as being Africa’s first environmental feature film.  It deals with the tremendous complexities and difficulties confronting Malian rural dwellers as they strive to survive and make sense of their ever changing environment.  The film beautifully depicts the rhythm, joys and problems of village life and effectively explores the relationship between rural and urban settings.


The film’s plot is quite complex and is at times confusing.  An instructor may want to preface the film with a brief plot summary and a list of characters.  The film may need to be veiled several times in order for the audience to tie up all the intricacies of the story-line.  An instructor might also consider providing some contextual background on the history, political economy, and social structure of Mali.


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




45 minutes

Director: Flora M'Bugu‑Schelling

Distributor: California Newsreel

Price: $195.00 (purchase), $95.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no         


Synopsis:  These Hands records the hard labor of a group of emigre women from Mozambique living in Tanzania.  The women struggle to survive by breaking stones into small pieces for a quarry.  For their work, they earn only a pittance.


Critique:  These Hands documents the strength and beauty of the African women who survive by breaking rocks into small stones.  The film features the images and sounds of women's hands holding and hitting rocks, of women singing to pass the hours, and of the of the work.  We witness a rock slide in which one of the women is injured or killed.  


This film remains on the outside of their experiences and includes no narration.  The images of women pounding rocks speak for themselves.  With perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the film being its lack of a narrative voice. The viewer is able to enter into the lives of these women, to empathize with their struggles and to admire their power. 


The camera moves slowly and carefully throughout the film as it pans the women pounding stone

after stone and making fine gravel from the mountains of rockwhich surround them.  We enter into the tedium of the work as we watch and listen to stone hitting stone, see the tired and clumsy hands of one women smash a finger between the heavy rocks, and witness trucks, driven by men, carry the piles of gravel away.  At the end of the film we learn that each woman earns only twelve cents for her labor.


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




32 minutes in English

Production Company: Institute for International Cooperation

Distributor: Institute for International Cooperation

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis: Tree‑Planting in Mozambique presents an insider's view of development work in Mozambique.  The focus is one tree planting project run by a group of five volunteers, four of whom who are from the United States and one from Mexico.


Critique:  Tree‑Planting in Mozambique captures the reflections and the thoughts of five volunteers (ages 19‑29) from the Institute for International Cooperation and Development (IICD) in Williamstown, MA who decided to work on a tree‑planting project in Nacala, a city in northern Mozambique, for six months. The film features an unabashedly informal style, and this direct interview technique provides intriguing glimpses of Mozambican rural life.   The volunteers express their fears and anxieties about working in a developing country and share their frustrations as well as their sense of accomplishment at the end of the six month project. 


Unfortunately, the length and style of the film do not allow for any in‑depth discussion of development work in Mozambique.  As one volunteer comments, his main accomplishment over the six month period was simply "being one out of five."  Another comment is, "I wonder if it is even possible to send people from one culture to another to help them in their development without giving the impression of some kind of cultural dominance."  Follow‑up on these remarks would have strengthened the film.


This film is made by Institute for International Cooperation and Development (IICD) volunteers who worked with DAPP in Mozambique.  The bias is clear‑‑they support the work and policies of Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) and issues surrounding the tricky act of "development" work are not really tackled. The film tends to focus on how the project affected the volunteers, and the Mozambicans who are interviewed appear to be saying what they think the film crew wants to hear.  DAPP is portrayed as one of the best organizations to hit Mozambique.


Recommended Audience:  Social Sciences, undergraduate



14 minutes in English

Producer: Jonathan S. Deull and Marl J. Kaplan

Distributor: Common Ground Productions

Price: (information unavailable)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  For generations the ancient baobab tree stood at the heart of the Makulele community, bringing shelter, nourishment, and providing a meeting place. In 1969, however, the Makulele were forcibly relocated.  Their land was incorporated into the Kruger National Park. In the mid-1990s the tree is again a meeting place:  the Makulele are seeking restitution for their lands; and the Parks Board  wants to preserve the land for conservation.  The two parties try to reconcile conservation with community needs whereby the Makulele regain ownership and manage the land for conservation purposes.  Initial differences are settled as both parties come to appreciate the other's point of view.


Critique:  The discussions in this video between Parks Board officials and Makulele representatives offer an exemplar of negotiation and reconciliation. The final scene where the white Parks officials are hugged by the previously dispossessed gives visual impact to Mandela's policy of bringing people together to work out their differences and to transcend oppressions of the past. This episode thus reports on negotiations towards what was later a successful outcome.  The Makulele were financed via a non-governmental organization to establish and manage a luxury tented camp in the game reserve.

(Written by Keyan G Tomaselli, 1998)


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Humanities, undergraduate, graduate




33 minutes in English voice-over

Director: Marie-Claude Harvey

Distributor: First Run/Icarus Films   

Price: $235.00 (purchase), $50.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Waiting explores the struggles of the United Nations to provide food aid to the Dinka in southern Sudan.  The film chronicles the wait for more relief workers to arrive in Alek, a town in southern Sudan, to distribute the food aid air-dropped into the town. 


Critique:  Waiting is a very powerful evocation of the desperate straits in which the people of southern Sudan find themselves as they wait for the arrival of more aid workers to distribute food aid.  The voice over of the film maker highlights the gap between the security and ease of the well-fed aid workers, who wait with the Dinka, and by extension, the West versus the starving Dinka. The film shows sympathy for the Dinka without condemning either side. An instructor might enhance the film by discussing the civil war in the Sudan.


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




17 minutes in English voice-over

Director: Christopher Roy

Distributor:  The University of Iowa Audiovisual Center.

Price: $120.00 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Yabba Soore explores the socio-cultural and ecological intersection of music, dance, and masks among five ethnic groups in Burkina Faso (Mossi, bwa, Nuna, Winima, and Bobo).  This film is from a two part series entitled Art and Death in Africa.


Critique:  Yabba Soore is a well-produced film that interrogates the relationships between art and the tripartite nexus of the spiritual world, the physical environment, and the everyday world of human existence.  It depicts masks and dance performances comprehensively and in an accessible manner, and avoids romanticizing or essentializing African art and cultural expression. The film does a fine job depicting the intersections among nature, existence and social artifacts which are created from this vital nexus, but perhaps it’s most compelling feature is the exquisite footage of dance performances.  Indeed, one criticism of the film is that it moves from performance to performance too quickly, preventing the viewer from fully appreciating the intricacies and rhythms of each dance.  Filmic devices often muddy the presentation by  interrupting the performances themselves.


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Science, undergraduate, graduate



ZAN BOKO (Homeland), 1988

94 minutes in More with English subtitles

Director: Gaston Kabore

Distributor: California Newsreel

Price: $195.00 (purchase), $95.00 (rental)


Synopsis:  Zan Boko tells the story of a rural Burkinabe family whose existence in their ancestral village is disrupted by the encroaching boundaries of the capital city Ouagadougou.


Critique:  Zan Boko explores the conflict between tradition and modernity, a central theme in many contemporary African films, such as Keïta and Ta Dona. It tells the poignant story of a village family swept up in the current tide of urbanization. In doing so, Zan Boko expertly reveals the transformation of an agrarian, subsistence society into an industrialized commodity economy. Zan Boko is also one of the first African films to explore the impact of the mass media in changing an oral society into one where information is packaged and sold. The film provides viewers with a unique opportunity to see our own televised civilization through the eyes of the traditional societies it is replacing.


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




58 minutes in English

Director: Tony Bulley

Distributor:   Films for the Humanities and Sciences. 

Price: $149.00 (purchase), $75.00 (rental)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Zimbabwe: Talking Stones traces the phenomenal development of Shona (Zimbabwean) stone sculpture as an internationally celebrated art form, from its early beginnings in the 1950s through it recognition as a major force on the world art scene.


Critique:  Zimbabwe: Talking Stones effectively maps the development of Zimbabwean sculpture from its “contemporary” articulations in the early 1950s through its current international celebration.  The film features interviews with and commentaries by key players in the tradition, including Frank McEwen, the curator of the National Art Gallery of Rhodesia in the 1950s and 1960s and several Zimbabwean artists.


The film has a tendency to be a bit dramatic in that it romanticizes the Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement.   Partially in response to the criticism that contemporary Shone art is really a European invention, McEwen and others are at pains to demonstrate that Zimbabwean sculpture captures deep, embedded spiritual traditions, repressed by a century of virulent settler colonialism.  Indeed, throughout the film, the narrator refers to Shona art as “tribal art.”


Recommended audience:  Humanities, Social Sciences, undergraduate, graduate




20 minutes in English

Director: Don Rook

Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences

Price: $69.95 (purchase)

Discussion guide: no


Synopsis:  Zimbabwe: Tourism Along the Zambezi River attempts to critically address the complex and contradictory role played by tourism in a small region in Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River adjacent to Victoria Falls.  The film asks the questions, “How much do local people get from tourism?” and “Do local people have the ability to influence the tourist industry to their own advantage?”


Critique: The primary strength of  Zimbabwe: Tourism Along the Zambezi River is that it questions the ambiguous role tourism plays in an economically impoverished and environmentally fragile area.  The film allows Zimbabweans involved in various aspects of the tourist industry to speak for themselves.  Most powerful is a short section of the film that focuses on a young male worker at a luxury hotel.  The film juxtaposes scenes of his life at work in the lavish setting of the luxury hotel with scenes of his life at home in the township in a small two room house, without electricity or running water, which he shares with another family.


Although the film asks many difficult questions about tourism and development, it fails to provide adequate information for the viewer to develop answers to those questions.  Non-expert viewers may leave the film with the sense that there is no alternative to the current situation in Zimbabwe.  Furthermore, the title of the film leads the viewer to expect that the focus is on the Zambezi River.  In fact, the film deals with only a small area of the river in the vicinity of Victoria Falls.


Recommended audience:  Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, undergraduate, graduate





Annenberg/CPB Project

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Tel: (814) 865-6314



Precision Transfer Technologies Inc.

22 Hamilton Avenue North

Ottawa, ON, Canada  K1Y1B6

Tel: (613) 729-8987; Fax: (613) 729-5517



Television for the Environment

Prince Albert Road

London NW14RZ

United Kingdom

Tel: 0171.586.5526; Fax: 0171.586.4866


THA Media

Suite 307 1200 W Pender St.

Vancouver, BC Canada V6E 2S9

Tel: (604) 687-4215/ 1-800-661-4818 Canada


Video Library Company

P.O. Box 580, Wynnewood PA 19096

Tel: (610) 645-4040; Fax (610) 645-4040



The Video Project

200 Estates Drive

Ben Lomond, CA 95005                             

Tel: 831‑336‑0160; Fax: 831‑336‑2168



Women Make Movies

462 Broadway, Suite 500 K

New York, NY 10013

Phone: (212) 925-2052; Fax: (212) 925-2052



World Bank Electronic Media Products and Services, Film and Video Unit

 (202) 473‑2149