News & Reviews
A review of A letter to Geldof by Catherine Airlie
"As long as you don't call me Sir... anything else is
fine: Lord of Lords,
Demi-Godness" jokes the (now Sir) Geldof today, as he receives a knighthood
for his work in the developing world. Accepting his position with grace brings
back memories to the people of Ajumako-Bisease in Ghana, who titled Geldof
Chief of Development in 2004. They threw a major festival in his name and
discussed how he could help the development of Ajumako-Bisease. A letter to
Geldof is a film that highlights Geldof's neglect of Ghana and the expectations
Twenty years of promoting the African
cause, the extravaganza of Live8 and the Make Poverty History campaign
has unarguably brought the African struggle to the forefront of
Westerners' minds. But A letter to Geldof, a collaboration
between WORLDwrite and Chew on it productions, is more akin to a letter
to the tooth fairy begging for your calcium-enriched currency back.
The Rich Mix cinema
in Shoreditch premiered A letter to Geldof last Monday (26th
March) to a sold-out audience. Part of the Pricking the Missionary
Position film series, which challenges the prescribed view of
development by western countries, Director Ceri Dingle says: "the film
provides a true reflection of what real Ghanaians want. And this is a
story worth telling."
The glitzy following
of celebrities traipsing through Africa in the manner comparable to the
crusaders doesn't show the real picture of development, nor what the
residents of those countries actually dream of and aspire to.
The film opens by
making a mockery of Geldof's 2005 speech in Trafalgar Square. Iconic
black and white footage gives a nostalgic and revolutionary feel with
him stating his tiredness of the politics of being nice and wanting to
see politics that would end poverty. In sharp contrast there is a cut to
interviews with Ghanaians, unfamiliar with the man who "speaks out for
Africa". The film discovers the Ghanaian perspective on our "western
promises" to make poverty history and the G8 summit.
During his BBC
series Geldof in Africa Geldof found himself in Ajumako-Bisease. On
arriving to the town, he was inundated by hospitality. The Chief of
Bisease offered him the prestigious position as Chief of Development,
which Geldof accepted, taking part in a huge ceremony. The education
minister even made the day a national holiday, allowing school children
to attend the ceremony. The festival made a perfect photo opportunity,
appearing in Geldof's follow-up book of the series.
booked us, and we didn't even know about it," said a Ghanaian from the
region. Visiting London last year, he was shocked to find the
hard-backed book about Geldof's philanthropies, littered with anecdotes
from Bisease and the photograph from the festival. "We were being sold
for £16 [per book]."
attempted to contact Geldof on the matter, but he declined to
comment. An agent eventually released a statement saying the festival
and expectations of Bisease were an "embarrassing confusion".
Frequent shots taken
from Geldof's book show him in traditional robes accepting the honorary
title. Residents of Ajumako-Bisease expected him to return for the
festival the following year - but his seat was empty. Interviewing a
range of local people suggests that Geldof knew the responsibility they
were placing on him and they made clear their expectations. They were
promised a hospital, a covered market, new roads and farming machinery
by Geldof, but as of yet they have heard nothing back from him.
The film honestly
portrays the Ghanaian perspective with interviews and vox-pops, bringing
home the absurdity of Geldof's work.
WORLDwrite, the East
London charity, is known for its uncompromising campaigns for
North-South equality. Ceri Dingle says "the series is aimed at a Western
audience, to challenge the low horizons that people have for the
developing world. They reflect what the Ghanaian people want and dream
of, and we think this is the story worth telling."
WORLDwrite and Chew on it productions have released the DVDs of these
two films to encourage debate and discussion and are encouraging
screenings in schools and universities globally. The filmmakers are also
planning to submit their films to the growing number of international
film festivals interested in documentary shorts and ultimately for
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