AFRICA: A Dutch filmmaker looks to dissect the mechanisms underpinning the dominance of Western perspectives of the Congo and the African continent.
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca is a freelance journalist and documentary critic. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: June 20, 2020

If you close your eyes and think of the Congo (DRC) – or by extension, of any place in Africa that you have never visited – what is it you see? And, if you’d have to describe them, what would you say? In that imaginary portrait or in the words that make your description, is there ever an image of normal life, of happy people, of smiles, and of love? Does thinking of people’s lives there have any similar coordinates to how you would describe your own?

Following a group of young Congolese who photograph, document, and tell stories about their own country, Joris Postema’s new film Stop Filming Us (awarded at the Netherlands’ Movies That Matter festival this year and available to watch on Vimeo) confronts us with the realization that what we know and how we imagine Congo is a one-sided story, a framed narrative. In the western media, and by that in the western imagery, the country is defined exclusively by poverty, sadness, suffering, and war. That understanding is a selective reality. And because of this, the question is – is that reality at all?

Stop Filming Us-Congo-documentary-post1
Stop Filming Us, a film by Joris Postema

Selective narration

The answer depends on what you understand by the term «reality». The images that populate our minds, that reach us and have been doing so for a long time through the media, as well as through NGO’s campaigning, depicts something that is true. The question is how much context has been left out? The sum of these images builds a narrative that is lucrative. Suffering sells and can serve to justify an organization’s existence and presence in a place. But showcasing the same kind of images again and again, while leaving others out, ultimately cancels the possibility of true understanding and relating. This selective narrative creates the illusion of knowing, making us define those places through it, unquestioned. Beyond the true problems a country like the Congo faces – to which the West has contributed significantly, if we look at their roots and our countries’ …

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