Following his Oscar-nominated "Darwin’s Nightmare", in which director Hubert Sauper looks at the horrific outcomes of globalization on the fishing industry in rural Tanzania, the documentarian makes another stop in Africa, this time in a handmade airplane.

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Melanie Sevcenko
Sevcenco currently lives in Berlin, where she works as a freelance writer, and for several documentary film initiatives.
Published date: May 30, 2014

The second installment in a proposed trilogy about the contemporary condition of Africa, We Come As Friends looks at neo-capitalism in South Sudan, from its brave leap into independence to the exploitation of its resources. And through Sauper’s camera, it looks like everyone wants a piece – Chinese oil profiteers, UN officials, American investors and Christian missionaries.

Sauper’s plane circles the torrid terrain of South Sudan as his poetic narration draws parallels between his trip to the continent and the coming of extraterrestrials, between colonisation and a dream. It’s a metaphor that is strung throughout the film – Westerners landing in Africa to poke, to prod, to profit – as Sauper gazes from his aerial view. The handmade airplane, constructed out of tin and canvas, lends itself aesthetically to the metaphor: a strange object circling in the sky above uncharted territory. We see a sun rising and hear the disembodied voice of a Sudanese man, speaking local dialect. He tells us how the West colonized Africa, and the moon is next.

When Sauper’s aircraft eventually touches down, the year is 2011, shortly before the country’s partition. Local radio stations are reinforcing the importance of voting in the referendum, which leads to the South’s separation from the North. Opportunity for peace and prosperity feels tangible. From the …


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