Documentaries cast light upon Africa’s past and present

The Plight is the Human Right Watch
The Plight is the Human Right Watch film being screened Friday night at Alliance Francaise. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

The 7th Human Rights Watch Film Festival has been running all this week, with only one more day and two more film remaining to see.

After watching three remarkable documentary films since Tuesday, all of which have relevance in their addressing current issues and social injustices on the African continent, the last two continue in the same vein. Only they both take the form of fiction which is set against the backdrops of civil wars.

The first three were set in South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. All three were deeply moving and troubling as well. Everything must Fall was all about South African university students and workers protesting the gross inequality of the system’s and the country’s neo-liberal policies.

Maid in Hell was about African women who get stranded and shackled in the Middle East, and Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas told the heart-wrenching story of peasants swept off their land in the name of cash crop expansion and “development”.

Today from 6:30pm the festival will shift from CBD to Kibera and Anno’s One Fine Day (next to Olympic Primary School). “The Plight” and “Struggle for Family” will both expose the pains of war from a deeply personal perspective. One is set in a fictional war-torn state; the other takeS place in South Sudan.


Then, once the Festival is done, Alliance Francaise will again play host to four more documentary films in the coming week.

Slavery Routes is actually one documentary split into four parts, two of which will be shown on Monday and the other two the following day. Created out of a Unesco “Slave Route Project” with support from a slew of other international agencies, the series traces the history of the slave trade from the fifth century up to the late nineteenth century.

Based on extensive historical research, and directed by Daniel Cattier, Juan Gelas and Fanny Glissant, the project involved both European and African historians as researchers and consultants.

One of them is Profr Samuel Nyanchogo who’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Catholic University of East Africa. He will lead discussions following the films together with Emeritus Professor Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch from the University of Paris-Diderot.

The first film traces slave trade routes between 476 to 1375; the second, from 1375 through 1620 and the latter two from 1620 to 1888. The series will explore the how’s, why’s and wherefore’s of 25 million Africans forced into enslavement over centuries.