Framed: A new film rejects America’s white savior complex.
When it comes to the continent of Africa, only a few stories find their way to the mainstream. While the continent is home to more than 50 countries full of diverse people and cultures, Western media often focuses on issues of war, poverty, disease, and corruption, leading many Americans to believe they must “save” Africa.
We’ve seen it time and time again through seemingly innocent initiatives like the Kony 2012 movement or celebrity-driven campaigns to heal/help/teach Africa. Though the intentions of those who participate in such projects may be good, their willingness to believe they can “save” an entire continent of people who are more than capable of “saving” themselves (if it’s even necessary), is naïve at best, and downright condescending at worst.
After I wrote about Witherspoon’s upcoming film The Good Lie in which she plays a hardscrabble white woman who “saves” a group of Sudanese refugees, filmmaker Cassandra Herrman reached out to me to tell me about her documentary, Framed, which takes a look at America’s savior complex.
Boniface Mwangi speaking to a group of American students.
In Framed, Herrman and her team interview Africans from all over the continent to get their take on the West’s savior industrial complex, which has resulted in students, celebrities, and non-government organizations (NGOs) flocking to the continent, because as Binyavanga Wainaina put it, in their view “Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated.”
Here’s more info about film via the Framed Kickstarter page:
FRAMED takes a provocative look at image making and activism, following an inspiring young Kenyan photojournalist turned activist who shatters the stereotype of the passive aid recipient. As he challenges American students to focus their efforts close to home, FRAMED turns a lens on popular representations of Africa and Africans, as seen through the eyes of Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina and South African born educator Zine Magubane, who ask a chorus of questions about the selling of suffering.
FRAMED tells the story of Boniface Mwangi’s work as an image maker and image changer. From the moment he saw how his own photography could heal Kenyan wounds, he repurposed images of violence to promote reconciliation, and rallied his peers to jumpstart a creative and political youth movement. Visiting an American college, he challenges students to turn their attention to struggling communities around them. “Why do you want to fly all that way, and on your way to the airport you pass poverty, to go and help poverty in Kenya?”
Along the way, we meet Zine Magubane, who was born in South Africa and teaches American college students at Boston College about the portrayal of Africa in American media and pop culture. “When you see celebrity activists in Darfur or elsewhere,” she says, “you’d think there were no African think tanks, no African universities, no African human rights lawyers working on this issue”.
Framed’s filmmakers are hoping to raise $28,000 to complete production on the documentary; so far, they’ve gotten just over $13,000 in donations and have 15 days left.
Watch the powerful clip of Framed below. Visit the film’s Kickstarter pagefor more info and to donate.