Practice what you preach
We finally got a chance to be filmmakers again today. Teaching has its own rewards, but for my money it’s nothing compared to getting out and actually shooting. Two weeks into our time here and I finally found both the time and an excuse to initiate my camera to the sights of Africa.
One of our main collaborators on the project here is a local Burundian producer named Papy. He is currently on contract with the UN mission in Burundi, BINUB (Bureau intégré des nations unis au Burundi), to make films for different UN agencies. Saturday was International African Children’s Day and UNICEF held a huge march across the city for street kids he had to film, culminating in a ceremony with all the traditional Burundian fixings -dance, theatre, drums, speeches over terrible sound systems, etc. We Canadians all took the opportunity to bring our cameras to the street as well and not have to worry about people asking for money each time they are filmed.
There is a (sympathetic) fear all over Africa of white people coming with their cameras, filming people’s misery and profiting from the images. We have been very cognizant of that since we arrived and therefore waiting to build trust in the community before pulling out our equipment. The Burundi Film Center logo is yet to be a recognized symbol in Bujumbura, so we wore our shirts today and hoped to start building a relationship with the community at large. I think it worked.
You know you’re getting familiar with a city when even the homeless become recognizable to you. We tend to travel the same path most days and in turn pass the same people living on the street time and time again. One boy in particular, probably seven years old, follows us for blocks at a time and usually grabs the girls’ hands with a heartbreaking smile that’s hungry for our dollar. He managed to find us during the rally, decked out in the white UNICEF T-shirt the kids were all provided, but instead of money seemed to just want attention in front of his friends. We willingly obliged.
I ran with him to the front of the march and lifted him into the back of the jeep that was leading the parade. Sabrina and I took turns letting him hold our cameras and film his friends who were incredibly jealous of their seemingly privileged friend. (Bridget was elsewhere snapping shots of the action, so you’ll have to wait for our videos to witness the incident). I’m going to think big and hope the moment was more memorable and valuable than giving him loose change.