From Wronging Rights:
This is a movie that Ben Affleck made about the crisis in the Kivus for UNHCR’s awareness campaign:
I know what you’re thinking.
Or rather, I know what I was thinking: “Oh for god’s sake, ANOTHER vanity project using the Congo’s striking back-drop of AK-47s and sobbing rape victims to set off some celebrity’s pointedly un-ironed ‘I’m in a refugee camp’ ensemble and newfound commitment to helping the less fortunate / more browner.”
But let’s run down the list of typical offenses:
- Shots of aforementioned celebrity kneeling caringly next to tear-stained refugee child: None.
- Voyeuristic footage of teary teenage girls haltingly narrating the circumstances of their violation: None. In fact, nobody cries at all.
- Ominous images of black men clutching semi-automatic weapons in a menacing manner: Alright one, but it accompanies text noting that there are 22 recognized armed groups operating in the region so I’m going to let it slide.
Affleck instead makes the shocking choice to show people going about their daily activities in the camps, experiencing the normal range of human emotion. This shouldn’t be so striking, except when was the last time you saw footage of a Congolese man patiently bathing his child?
Remember celebrity photographer Rankin’s insistence that glamour shots were needed to raise awareness of the IDPs because people “have become anaesthetised to traditional photographs of conflict victims”? Turns out portraying them as thinking, feeling human beings will do the trick just as well. (And the awesome soundtrack – “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones – doesn’t hurt either.) Way to go, Affleck!
If you work in aid and you are not reading this blog, you should be.