Saturday, April 14, 2007

HBO Joins the Club of Naïve Westerners…

...Or when is a Documentary not a Documentary?

I have been busy picking on Oprah (see post about Oprah’s Charities), but I was even more shocked to read that the documentary titled Ithuteng – Never Stop Learning , which is being promoted by HBO, has just won numerous awards at 2006 Film festivals. There are interviews all over the Net, with the young American filmmakers, describing their experiences during filming, and the haunting stories that make up the ‘reality’of the lives of it’s characters. The New York Times screened the film and wrote “It’s a Film about Despair in South Africa, and a School that Offers Hope”.

It’s infuriating! The Star Online website flaunts photos of Hollywood’s elite, rubbing shoulders with the poor, victimized youth of Ithuteng, whom they have flown across, all expenses paid, for the numerous awards shows and press conferences!!! And all of this took place long after Carte Blanche exposed their stories as false, and showed footage of these youngsters admitting the whole thing was a scam to get money and recognition for themselves and the biggest criminal of all – Mama Jackey!!

I wrote to HBO, to inquire about their process of validating the supposedly factual documentaries they promote but not surprisingly, they ignored it. It seems Hollywood is craving an image of caring, of supporting those in need, of looking like the good guys – it’s become trendy to give back to Africa. Like the cosmetics campaigns where they promise to give a dollar from every tube of lipstick sold to stop AIDS in Africa. What a joke…

The thing is, that the makers of the Ithuteng Documentary are the sons of the Chairman of NBC, and whose mother is actress Susan St. James, (in other words, they’ve got a few connections), and promotions were not an issue. The topic of the documentary fit right into the current trends, and the subjects of the documentary were more than happy to market a good story and keep milking it, for a free trip to Hollywood, all sort of royalties and global recognition – despite the fact that back home the bubble had burst and they have admitted on camera that all the stories were lies. The sad truth is that Hollywood sells images and stories and the truth is absolutely irrelevant.
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1 comment:

Sijui said...

From the descriptions on this blog, Ghana sounds like such a wretched and miserable place. Why are you still there?

Regarding the post on the boys and the gutter rodent, are you sure they consumed a rat or a grasscutter? Grasscutters are a species of rodent that are prolific throughout Ghana and very much a local staple......

Overall, after reading your blog I can't help accusing you of the same cultural blinders and tunnel vision that you point out in others: the Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Angelina Jolie crowd. Here's why, your perspectives on Ghana are legitimate but the city you live in is vastly different from the one I live in......could we be talking about the same Accra? My evey day life is not one filled with desperation and despair, is that because I'm an elite and out of touch with the society around me? No, its because I'm one of millions of Ghanaians working hard and making everyday choices to transform our lives and that of those around us, and in the process celebrating everyday triumphs and learning from failures. We're certainly not moping about and wringing our hands on how insurmountable our challenges are!
Thanks also for the statistics on Ghana, but again I ask, are we talking about the same World Bank? Is this the same institution that cites Ghana as having one of the fastest drops in poverty in Africa and on target to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals?,,menuPK:351958~pagePK:141159~piPK:141110~theSitePK:351952,00.html. And I don't think we need verification of progress from an international institution to state the obvious, visit any rural community in Ghana and speak to small scale farmers, entrepreneurs and tradespeople about their assessment of their immediate and short terms prospects and you'll get a full picture.
Ghana has significant challenges, there's no debate about that, I'm not here to romanticize our situation.....I'm here to confront a well worn and tired 'poverty meme' of stagnation, despair and despondency. Whose really the naive Westerner in the narrative of Ghana you display?

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