AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

Why we made a film about the images and myths that cast a continent as a victim
Cassandra Herrman and Kathryn Mathers | June 19th, 2014

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We’re making the documentary film, FRAMED, because we recognize a lot of Americans want to do good in Africa, with the best of intentions, but the way they go about it often doesn’t play out well for Africans. In western pop culture, we’re still seeing images of Africans as helpless, hopeless and without any ideas about how to change their own societies. Yet Africans are politically, socially, culturally engaged in and out of government and they are telling their stories about what they are doing through writing, art, music, political action and social media. FRAMED turns the lens on how the status quo of Africa in need works for westerners.

In the film, Zine Magubane, an educator at Boston College, investigates the motives and rewards of the humanitarian impulse: “unfortunately it’s not establishing a relationship between two people as humans, but rather as a savior and a victim.”

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Featured in the film are writer Binyavanga Wainaina (How To Write About Africa; One Day I Will Write About This Place) and Boniface Mwangi, the young Kenyan photojournalist turned activist who shatters the stereotype of the passive aid recipient.  FRAMED has never been about speaking on behalf of Africans but about finding ways to open up Americans to recognize that if they really want to do good in Africa they need to partner with Africans or support their initiatives or work in the US on policies that impact Africans.  We want the film to speak to young people who have a sincere energy for change, but haven’t considered the questions FRAMED is raising.  We filmed with a young writer named Pippa Biddle who made waves when she wrote a provocative blog piece titled “The Problem With Little White Girls (And Boys): Why I Stopped Being a Voluntourist” about her experience as a volunteer.

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It has been hard to narrow the story down but we believe that showing how Africans like Boniface engage with their own political spaces as well as how they represent their homes to Americans while also, we hope, showing how Americans are learning new ways to be activists in Africa and at home can push us out of the critique phase into a constructive one in terms of development and humanitarian interventions.

Here’s a link to the film’s Kickstarter page.

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Cassandra Herrman is director and producer of FRAMED. Kathryn Mathers is the film's co-producer.

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5 thoughts on “Why we made a film about the images and myths that cast a continent as a victim

  1. And let’s not forget all the people who cats themselves as victims, sometimes innocent victims even, instead of shouldering responsibility. Sometimes whole nations say they are victims of this or that.
    I detest policies that turn people into beggars but remember there are many actors in this destructive game.

  2. Some of these folks creep me out with the way they act like bringing over their bible is going to somehow “save” people in other countries. If they really cared about Africa and Africans so much they would be protesting against their own country’s big corporations going over their to rob the continent of all resources to enrich Western countries at the expense of Africa, and the U.S. and other nations training and arming terrorist groups who put in dictators beholden to western business interests.

  3. Yes! This is a topic that definitely needs to be addressed much more. I’m a Kenyan in Taiwan doing research for my master’s thesis about stereotypes that Taiwanese youth have of Africa :) Keep it up

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