Africa Representa

Documentary feature, 76 Minutes, A 2003.


Photography: Bernhard Pötscher, Jerzy Palacz
Music: Thierry Zaboitzeff
Editing: Harald Friedl, Bernhard Pötscher
Voice (german Version): Herbert Föttinger
Voice (english Version): Dennis Kozeluh
Written and directed by Harald Friedl
Subtitles translated by Jutta Ittner

Formats: Digi Beta, DVD, Beta SP (Film eventually)
Englisch / Suahili / Masai with english subtitles

„Africa Representa“ is a journey beyond clichees. An encounter with foreign cultures mediated by the (fictional) experience of an African (starring Sidede Onyulo) who grew up in the diaspora and is now trying to recover the lost images of the landscape of his early childhood. In quest of the feelings of African people the film travells between traditional and 21st century cultures, between the city and adobe huts.
„Africa Representa“ is a search for identity in the contrasts of an area in central Tanzania typical of sub-Saharan Africa. The people reflect their struggles and their awareness that change is crucial: A young painter is depressed by the prevalent lawlessness, which forced him to give up his possessions and to flee from his home. A tradesman of clothes feels the hopelessness of his neighbourhood.

Young people find themselves up against the traditional, archaic Africa: Herdsmen admire the interiors of a parked car, an old Njaturu chief is steeped in the world of magic. And again and again, like a leitmotif, work goes on in small stone quarries. With fire and with hammers the giant ancient boulders are broken up into smaller and smaller rocks — each piece of gravel on the roads is handmade.

Gradually the imbuence of Africa with European culture increases:

A mother is proud of the plastic flowers in her home and the small TV-set which she regards as a major means of education for her kids. Two young rappers perform in the streets of the city. Representing MTV culture they call themselves „Africa Representa“.

The camera moves unobstrusively and discreetly. The inner monologue of the traveller, of the homecomer from the diaspora, takes the form of diary entries and poetic vignettes reflecting on his efforts to find his place in the foreign land. These thoughts oscillate between an outside and an inside gaze, between longing and mythology, between seeing and being seen.

A lame man and a prostitute dance for their livelihood. Young Muslim women mourn they’re kept like livestock … A young Masai warrior remembers performing Hip-Hop in the Netherlands. He and some other youths move from their distant village to the city of Aruhsa.

As the traditional herdsmen have lost their „old machines“, their cattle, in an epidemic they now migrate to study the use of „new machines“. They learn how to make use of computers.

The travelogue has the intimacy and focus of a personal essay. It has a humorous side as well–take the parable of the mosquito that wants to marry the ear of a man, or a brass band playing an African Ode to Joy.

The traveller´s quest to comprehend reaches the limits of the humanly possible–“for understanding life is like looking into the sun. Far too much light will hit the searching eyes.”

However, the film doesn’t end with a melancholy farewell, but with a little game full of the zest and optimistic energy of the African youth. (Translated by Jutta Ittner)