And the Exploitative Oscar goes to…

Bill Easterly starts the official “Exploiting Africa Academy Awards”:

Following the Academy Award nominations earlier this week, we introduce the Exploiting Africa Academy Award (EAAA) nominations to recognize films who do the best against stiff competition to portray the most insulting and exploitative images of Africans, usually being heroically saved by some white people.

Machine Gun PreacherThis one is so exemplary that it inspired the EAAA in the first place. A commercial film based on a violent ex-con turned violent Christian who goes to central Africa to shoot bad guys and rescue any children still alive after the cross-fire. Principal white saviors : based on “true(?)” story of ex-biker-gang-member Sam Childers, supported in the movie by a beautiful model playing his ex-biker-gang-member-wife.

The Reckoning. About how the International Criminal Court protects African females and children against male African killers. Principal White Savior: Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

DarfurAbout how Western correspondents protect African females and children against male African killers. Principal White Saviors: macho journalists supported by one attractive female journalist.

The Vice Guide to Liberia. OK it’s actually a web-based TV series from the Vice media empire, but it’s so horrifically exploitative (baby cannibalism, enough said), we had to include it. Principal White Savior: the Vice correspondent , although it’s very unclear how he’s saving anyone but himself.

An older classic:

Blood Diamond.  Educated the movie-going audience about the acronym TIA to be used whenever anything horrible happens in the movie — “This Is Africa”.Principal white saviors: mercenary and smuggler Leonardo di Caprio supported by gorgeous journalist Jennifer Connelly.

You can vote here. Or add your own nomination.

7 thoughts on “And the Exploitative Oscar goes to…

  1. I haven’t seen it yet, but I might go ahead and take the risk of nominating “OKA!” for next year’s awards. I mean, if you watch the trailer the white dude is wearing shorts in like every scene. Come on! On the other hand Tyler Cowen really liked it, so maybe there’s hope.

  2. Okay, so what are some good, un-exploitive movies that aren’t insulting to Africans? Not from this year, necessarily. Genuinely interested.

  3. @lizzybef

    Mahamat Saleh Haroun’s Abouna, A Screaming Man and Daratt (a masterpiece); Abderrahmane Sissako’s Life on Earth; Djibril Diop Mambéty’s La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil; Ousmane Sembène’s Moolaadé, and more.

  4. why is every hollywood movie about sudan about white people saving sudan? i also heard they are turning emma’s war into a movie. i can’t take it! it’s not like there isn’t a hugely popular book written for a mass media audience featuring a sudanese character out there (what is the what) – it just seems shockingly, overtly racist.

  5. It is undoubtedly the case that exploitation of Africa is far reaching in cinema, and these seem like sound examples. However, although these works primarily pursue profits, I think there are some potential spillover benefits worth not overlooking. For example, I was quite surprised at how a number of my acquaintances had no idea what actual blood diamonds were, or that such a concept existed, until introduced to it by the film.

    I think those of us interested in and following up on development are perhaps more attuned to pick up on tropes involving “white saviors” than the layperson. I think the “this is Africa” syndrome is problematic, for all the negative predispositions and ignorance it propagates; but some of these films might just do the trick to lure in someone who might navigate to Google Scholar or the development blogosphere and undergo further inquiry. If even one viewer of say, Blood Diamond or The Reckoning, queries Google to find more information and lands in front of a journal article or a development blog, or joins the development discourse, then I think it is worth more than the many people who carry on under a “this is Africa” blindfold, because it’s very likely they were already operating under an assumption of “this is Africa” anyway.

  6. @lizzybef, what about hotel rwanda. that’s an exploitative film about hardship experienced in africa.