Sunday, August 23, 2015

"We Come as Friends": stunning doucmentary about post colonial South Sudan


We Come as Friends” is a new documentary by Hubert Sauper about the conflict for independence for South Sudan, which frees itself from Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir.

Sauper is known for “Darwin’s Nightmare” (2004), about exploitative fishing of Lake Tanzania.
   
In the new film, Sauper navigates a prop plane that shoots astonishing views of the desert landscape before he lands it to deal with the real people.

The title of the film connotes its substance:  Western countries (first Britain, then other Europeans, and now the Chinese) come to take the land’s natural resources and hire the people for slave wages, and then the advanced countries partition the continent into ineffective, dictatorial states. It’s called colonialism.

One of the most striking sequences occurs in the middle as missionaries from Texas mix with the native people, with a great degree of personal intimacy, and then brag it has stayed Christian.  The wife says (with some crassness) that the landscape reminds her of home in Texas. I am also reminded of a local church film “The Mission in Belize” about the openness of American visitors to live with the natives for a while (Drama blog, Nov. 4, 2012).


Often the film mentions Islam and mosques.  It constantly shows the squalor in which the people live, with their communities of conical huts. Darfur is often mentioned but not re-explained in detail.  The scenery rather resembles the way Clive Barker describes the desert along the Lenten Way in the Third Dominion of his "Imajica". 

The film showed at the AFI in Silver Spring MD and was followed by a QA. One of the audience members insisted this was about national liberation, not religion.
  
The official site is here

The high definition photography was awesome, giving the film an Imax look. There is a very small amount of incidental native nudity, including childhood. 

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