Points of View
The following comments are from crew members and contributors who worked to make this film possible. We are not interested in the “I-Me” stories and inside leg measurements of our team; their ideas and creative input are what counts.
Balint Tusor, Editor
It was very interesting for me to make a film about a very famous person and see a different side to the usual story. I like the people in this film very much, it is not hard to empathise with their situation as they are from a poor country and want so much more for their people. I am from Hungary and I am here in the UK because I want to understand more of the world. In fact many people have similar situations but the way people talk, their film styles, their creative visions are different. This film has been an eye opener. I look forward to editing many more documentaries.
Ceri Dingle, Director
Having not set out to make this film I am nonetheless pleased we have made it. I have thought about it a lot since we returned and it clearly raises a lot of issues as well as the urgent development needs of the people in Ajumako-Bisease. Alongside our talented volunteer crew I make no apologies for raising questions about an apparent hero. I personally found the finger-clicking festival that was Live8 and the lie that was G8 repugnant. Maybe it is time we kicked our fascination with celebrities into touch. We have seen Brad, Madonna, Bono and Bob waltzing into Africa and apparently raising a banner for the supposedly “helpless”. So much is made of their antics, so little of the patronising and pompous assumptions behind their missionary position. Moreover Bob is no run of the mill rock star but someone who has claimed to speak up for Africa, as though Africans lack the tenacity or ability to do so for themselves. As we discovered everywhere in Ghana, and no doubt the same would be true across the continent, Ghanaians are more than able to articulate their needs and have great ideas for their future.
The pity is that those who claim to take the cause of Africans back home never do justice to their aspirant and inspiring communities. The “celebrocracy” who make Africa their cause, just as many Western politicians have, may well do so from the heart, but so what? Our peers do not want pity, tea and sympathy or to fill the moral vacuum that besets Western politics; they want resources and no less than you or I.
There is something tragic about this film, not least the very genuine belief held by people in Bisease that Geldof would deliver. There are lessons to be learned, not least that rock stars who big up Africa only to treat Africans with contempt whilst demeaning their efforts to get something for their town deserve exposing. Can we not promote the needs of our peers without the celebrities and without the tears, and instead campaign in solidarity? I think we can, but Geldof, as De Roy so eloquently states, “is not our messiah.”
Kwame Agyapong, Co-Producer
How dare Mr Geldof walk into this town and humiliate people in this way. I am so angry. We would not visit the UK and expect to be crowned, honoured, knighted and, having delighted in the ceremony and promised to assist, then go away and make a mockery of it. The arrogance and rudeness is quite simply stunning.
Viv Regan, Producer
Whilst in Ghana I read the book Geldof in Africa expecting a light-hearted celebrity photo story, which it largely is, as well as very patronizing. I happened to show it to Kwame and De Roy who were both amazed and annoyed at what was said about Bisease, Geldof’s crowning and the chief’s house. They were adamant we should look into this. We had so little time and no idea where this was, as there are many Biseases in Ghana. On our last day we finally scurried off to find Bisease. We really didn’t know what to expect, maybe he had given the town lots of cash, promoted their cause, done something for the town. But having done absolutely zero, coupled with people’s belief that he would, convinced us we should shoot the truth and write to him. This film is a letter to Geldof and I look forward to his reply. The best outcome would be for him to hand over a load of cash to the town and in my view hand back the crown with it. Nobody wants to be taken for a ride or used as a publicity stunt, ever. Sadly I doubt this is a one off. So cover your tracks fame-seekers who use and treat our peers so badly, we are watching you.
Millicent Kumeni, Translator
Volunteering on this film project has been important for me. I am from Ghana and I want it to be watched by the world because of the uncomfortable truth it tells. The visuals are very good as are the contributors. The Hip Life music is exciting and I loved this track when it was in the charts in Ghana. I’m glad we tracked down the musicians. The film’s impact will be important. I hope the world can handle it and, even better, hand over resources.
De Roy Kwesi Andrew, Researcher
When Bono declared last year that “I represent a lot of people [in Africa] who have no voice at all… They haven’t asked me to represent them. It’s cheeky but I hope they’re glad I do…” I was really angry. He doesn’t represent us; neither does Geldof or Blair. My message to them is: You are not our messiah. If you want to help fine but stop using our name, interfering in our affairs, monitoring us and using us to bump up your prestige and your own lack of politics and vision.
Nathalie Theobald, Post-production Assistant
I’ll tell you why Bob Geldof may not like Mondays. It’s because every Monday, he wakes to organise a mass of projects, meetings, charity work, books, TV companies, press conferences, appearances and has to remember if he is a Sir, a Lord, a King, a Chief, or a Warrior.
Although Mr Africa has been busy as the voice of all the poor voiceless Africans – who apparently are incapable of speaking for themselves – it seems he has been too busy to keep his promise to some of the very people he says he is helping. People in Bisease took him very seriously. They waited and waited and they are unfortunately still waiting. They may seem very far away and small fry in a giant ocean, but a promise is a promise, or does the slogan “Make Promises Happen” just look good on the official G8 website?
It is this contradiction that I find outrageous; it’s also the reason why I became involved in this documentary when the crew came back from Ghana. He is a business and although on the outside his looks like a “do good” enterprise, we need to question if it is really doing the good he says. We should stop giving out awards for just making us aware and stop pretending Geldof and his celebrity chums have achieved more than they have.
Although you may think I am trying to put the blame solely on Geldof, it was he who accepted the role of Chief of Development in a town called Bisease, where development is sorely needed. If he and his empire of “good” cannot even be bothered to get in contact with Bisease, let alone carry out their promises, then what was it really all for? These are real people wanting real things, not a one-hit sympathy vote, and not tools to be used as publicity for celebrities’ ethical campaigns.
Athanasia Pappas, Post-production Assistant
Do as I say, not as I do…?
If someone is going to stand on the world stage and preach about alleviating poverty and get the credit for it then they should put their money where their mouth is, especially when they have loads.
For me this film is important because we can’t just stand back and think that it’s all okay now that we’ve bought a wristband (coming from one who bought plenty in her time) and been to a concert. We need to affect change on a much bigger scale if the people who happened to be born in developing nations are going to get any sort of shot at living a life like ours. Geldof’s awareness-raising has achieved what exactly? If he can’t even keep a promise to a town and people who honoured him specifically, in person, then what leg does his Africa Progress Panel have to stand on? If he wants to champion people’s needs he could try treating them with less contempt to start with.
Sadhavi Sharma, Sound
“An estimated 3 BILLION PEOPLE watched LIVE 8 the greatest, greatest show on Earth. They came together with one message - Make Poverty History.” (Live 8 website)
The “greatest show ever” says the Live 8 website, but you only have to scrape the surface of it to see that the miserable goals embodied by the Make Poverty History (MPH) campaign and Live 8 – with Sir Bob Geldof at its helm – really weren’t worth all that clicking, clapping and crying. In fact, it was really a great show of western patronage, lacking any demands for real economic development in Africa that could ensure a standard of living comparable to that in the West. The campaign embodied no new ideas, and was in fact mere conformity with agendas pre-set by western politicians. The success of the campaign was measured in terms of the popular mobilisation of people and the unprecedented support it got from all sections of society. This mobilisation and blind support only reflects the unquestioning nature of the campaign.
The gatherings preceding the G8 summit at Gleneagles were aimed at increasing poverty awareness and to pressure the G8 leaders to relieve absolute poverty. But what exactly were they demanding? The MPH-Live 8 demands were essentially an endorsement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were first launched in 2000. The first MDG aims to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce hunger between 1990 and 2015 by halving the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by 2015. The aim is to reduce poverty – extreme poverty at that – and to ensure that people in Africa have some food to live on. Is that all we can demand for our peers in the developing world? Is this acceptable as a goal? Is that how we understand development? In a developed country we take transport, infrastructure, decent housing, a variety of food and even entertainment for granted. We don’t have to toil in order to feed ourselves. Development frees us from mindless toil and the struggle to survive. We can instead participate in activities, socialise, create, think and learn. Yet the MPH-Live 8 campaigns endorsed the MDGs, essentially survival-level goals for the developing world. A dollar a day, or even 3 or 4 dollars a day, will not “make poverty history”. It will not provide decent living, well-equipped hospitals or quality medical care; it will not create jobs or social wealth. A plethora of celebrities and masses of people therefore came together not to campaign for growth or development or indeed for the end of poverty; they came together to campaign for survival only. A pointless awareness-raising feat as far as Africa is concerned and endorsement of the status quo.
Three billion people watched Live 8, eight billion people around the world wore the white band, 8000 people lobbied 375 MPs, the Make Poverty History coalition deemed 2005 a “monumental” year for the campaign. “We want you” was the political message of Live 8. After all, it is hard not to support a catchy slogan like “Make Poverty History”. Who wouldn’t want to make poverty history? Awareness-raising and the mobilisation of thousands around a catchy phrase unfortunately do not amount to development or equality. At best, The Make Poverty History-Live 8 campaign was a communal pity fest with a false sense of action and political purpose for people in the West. Neil McCormick in an article in The Telegraph described the sentiment behind the support for Geldof:
‘’And when he spoke at the press conference, backed by those unbearable images of starving children (there were tears streaming down Elton John's face, and sniffling from the ranks of hardened journalists), there were moments when everyone in the room was on his side and actually believed that united behind his inspirational leadership we might achieve the impossible dream of ending poverty in our lifetime.’’
McCormick goes on to say that Live 8 put protest at the heart of popular culture. What were they protesting against though? MPH and Live 8 were, in fact, campaigning for an agenda already chosen by Blair, Brown and Bob Geldof in their report for the Commission for Africa, established in 2004. In 2004. It was Geldof, as he himself claims, who first approached Blair to set up the commission. The report was an overarching consensus from all corners on what the goals for Africa should be, namely the provision of the bare minimum to allow survival. Was there any discussion or debate about what Africa really wants in terms of development? No. In fact, development was not even on the agenda. Blair, Geldof and the MPH campaign signified appallingly low horizons not only for those in Africa but also for the thousands who gave their support to it. Supporters of the MPH campaign had to merely turn out in large numbers, emote at the plight of Africa and endorse the MPH slogan. No questions asked. Madonna of course called it a “revolution”.1
What the MPH coalition of organisations in fact did was to package minimal aspirations for the developing world as exciting. As Geldof declared referring to Live 8, “it made giving exciting”. Bono on the other hand went as far as to say that “it gave the poor real political muscle.” Far from it. These campaigns had nothing to do with the poor. Celebrities assuming the role of guardians of the poor without questioning the goals they represent and embody can only be detrimental to Africa’s own ambitions for material prosperity and a better standard of living. These campaigns do not show any solidarity with people in Africa. African governments are treated with suspicion and the people as children in need of direction and western goodwill. The campaigns, the concerts and the G8 summit – well-meaning or not – give no political muscle to the poor and only serve to patronise them. Strip the campaigns and Geldof’s rhetoric of the emotion and it is clear that there was nothing new on the agenda of the G8. Making poverty history requires real development, growth, support for African ambitions, and questioning all the policies and attitudes in the West which degrade and prevent their realisation.