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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 of Ghanaians.

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.

"He 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]."

The filmmakers 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 broadcast.

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