Archive for the ‘Film Critique(Evaluative Analysis)’ Category

The Two Teachers

Posted: September 27, 2012 by phermc10 in Film Critique(Evaluative Analysis)

A griot in West African society functions as a story-teller, historian, praise singer, poet and musician. Djeliba teaches Mabo what lacks in his subjective curriculum at school by telling his ancestor’s life back  centuries ago. He raises the question of certainty of survival of indigenous values with their knowledge and culture. He snubs at the nature of top-down modern education system. In that way M.Fafana is a teacher who intellectually and emotionally is not amalgamating enough with his students’ learning; he teaches because he is given a salary, curriculum and classroom as well as a stick with absolute authority to roam among students. He promotes rote learning and cramming to his students for finishing one grade after another. He may be a dutiful teacher but not a responsible one seen through the eyes of Djeliba.

On the other hand, the griot knows exactly what his own society needs and what he should educate the posterities to meet it. He also encourages Mabo to pronounce his curiosity and ask himself. Young people have to ask themselves to learn deeply about their own inspirations, strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, they need the courage to quit what they really are not into and decide what appeals them. Sadly, society does not give that chance much to everyone, especially education system by which we begin engaging in restless race.

Thal Sandy Tun

Production of knowledge and socio-economic development is what schooling system we have today accomplishes. However, the point is that school encourages us to perceive the structure of hierarchy in our society such as carrot and stick rules by teachers as well as high number of failures schools want to happen for its limited space upward. That is because in a capitalist society only a small handful of highly specialized people manage the economy and running of state. There will also be workers and technicians who are differently layered in accordance with their roles in society. Therefore, schooling causes us to revere a system run lopsided, making people always vulnerable to their disadvantage by that system itself which apparently hopes to do good for them.

Therefore, the knowledge produced by the modern schooling is creating divisions and competitions among us. It damages traditional values which integrate communities such as helpfulness, cooperation, and honesty. Another thing is the importance of the role of money is exaggerated in order to fit into the materialistic society. Finding money is not easy and thus people use unethical and dishonest means to improve their producer surpluses which affect the consumers. Today almost every food we eat and every commodity we buy is adulated in one way or another because of unethical businesses which are hard to control.

People above will never learn that some people become incapacitated because of the system they insist. That’s one reason why we are having wars and natural disasters as institutions make us to rely on them. The society being created through our modern schooling is not sustainable any longer.

Thal Sandy Tun

Before the invasion of European imperialists in African countries, education was the effort of local community elders who responsibly passed down indigenous knowledge and traditions to young boys and girls for their later roles in their own communities. Indigenous or traditional knowledge is the only and essential source of wisdoms that is highly relevant to the existence and continuation of socio-economic as well as cultural life of every society in the world. Their legitimacy can be noted from another important fact that is the increasing failure in educational policy goals to create educational and social development in African and other societies in this era of globalization and neocolonialism.

When European imperialists came, with the power of gun powder and high imperialist notion of racial superiority and liberalism, degraded indigenous institutions in their colonies. The European education policy for their colonies seeing the main function of education as secular and functional, neither moral nor conservative, became essential for being the ladder to advancement in the modern institutional hierarchy adopted in the colonial society, in  administration, law or commerce and of course, it just benefitted the running of the colonial rule. Thus schooling was no longer about traditional knowledge and rituals. Instead, it eliminates or attempts to make them seem inferior. Modern schooling trains young people to compete with their counterparts all over the world, such as Asia, Africa and Europe, in global economy and social aspirations. This interconnectedness and unstable nature of global events has given rise to unemployment problem, education and social development gaps as well as poverty and vulnerability of people.

Thal Sandy Tun

Two Kinds of Knowledge

Posted: August 9, 2012 by phermc10 in Film Critique(Evaluative Analysis)

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Western education mainly trains young people to become applicable for industries which concentrate in urban areas. Many young people from rural areas move to cities in order to work in those industries, leaving traditional livelihoods of their own communities behind. From that increasing urbanization, there are many problems facing cities today such as traffic congestion, air pollution, sanitation, waste disposal, overcrowding and crimes.

The decay of traditional livelihoods along with disruption to social adhesion is something to think about in terms of familial values, lineage, mutual respect and guardianship. Many young people are moving away from their root as they graduate and plunge into corporate world. Very few think of returning to their original neighborhoods. There are two reasons for this: the first one is that they think they are no longer fit into working in the local environment because of the study they pursue at universities which is mainly for working in a multinational company and the second one is that they do not know how to contribute to the preservation of local community which largely lacks in their curriculum.

Therefore, in light of the film, we have to do something about school curriculums in order to find a balance between modern western knowledge and traditional local knowledge which can guide us towards achieving a community of young and old people living sustainably on their own land.  We should not forget that sustainability is not just about the environment; it is also about the systems and peoples’ desires on which our societies are built upon.

Thal Sandy Tun

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Western Africa is the western most part of the Africa Continent, covering an area of roughly five million square kilometers for its sixteen countries. Burkina Faso where the film was shot is one of them.

Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) is the largest film festival that is held once in every two years in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, in West Africa since 1969 after independence of the region from British and France ruling. It attracts many a great local and international filmmakers and celebrities.

In colonial time, films were only allowed to be produced by Western filmmakers for Africa who distorted the image of Africa as an exotic region devoid of culture and history. The Africa Queen was said to be one of those films. Following independence, it has become the task of African film directors and the people to correct the largely flawed image and rescue the real one of the region abroad and home as films became one of the important and effective tools to do so.

There is an idea that filmmakers are acting like griots through their films in order to confront the outside world which is imposing radical changes on African ageless traditions. The director of the film Keita, Dani Kouyate, himself is a descendant of griots for the Keita clan. The existence of griots dated back to 2000 years ago when the society specialized in different groups such as farmers, blacksmiths, hunters, court men and griots. Looking back at history, human arrival in the continent began as early as 12,000 BC and many glorious empires such as Ghana (750-1076), Mali (1235-1645) and Songhai (1275-1591) were accomplished.

Therefore, the films concentrates mainly on social and political topics instead of only on commercial entertainment theme and conflict between tradition and modernity is one of them, showing the changes infected in African societies from the West.  By doing these tasks, filmmakers are trying to unite the society back which is increasingly split by individualism and competition charged with Western ideological influence through schools.

Thal Sandy Tun

Griots who are well-known for their resourcefulness and skillfulness in storytelling are fading away in African society while they are increasingly accepting the reality of widespread penetration of European culture. The work of a griot is to tell stories that are enticing, inspirational and never-ending, passing down traditions from generation to generation. However, a new form of knowledge and system are being introduced, the future seems not so right for them.

In the film, Keita, we have seen the presence of European culture in modern Africa: urbanization, lifestyles of family, form of bureaucratic government, outward-looking education, and language. Mabo, who is a descendant of Keita to whom Djeliba is a griot by line, speaks French with his parents, attends modern school of western knowledge, and uses fork and spoon when he eats spaghetti. His mother also does not do ordinary housework as she can keep a house maid. What she does is to make sure that her son, Mabo, studies well and succeeds in his education. Thus Djeliba becomes more and more alienated from Mabo’s mother as he prolongs his stay in their house. When he leaves their house, Mabo is left wondering and trying to understand the meaning of traditional concepts which are overtaken by his western education.

Young people are no longer interested in griots, let alone listening to their stories. This is mainly due to the arrival of outsiders who disrupted their own way of life by changing or eliminating traditions. Schools that require today’s young children to begin attending at the age of around 6 years take advantage of their innocent mind to plague with western ideologies, uprooting the role of griots in the society who are there to pass down traditional way of life and ideas. This seems quite a long battle between tradition and modernity. Who will win? The end will and should be resolved by those like Mabo.

Thal Sandy Tun

Films can help us understand and learn a lot about a country, its people, its cultures, values, situations and other their own experiences. African film industry is a thriving one which has much to tell their own stories to the whole world audience in the most effective communication form.

Folktale and oral storytelling are very important in the cinematic traditions of Africa. It is because they believe it to be a successful method in delivering African worldview and offsetting overgeneralization resulted from colonialism and neocolonial ideologies over their peoples, cultures and countries. Neocolonialism is the term used to describe the geopolitical practice of using capitalism, business corporations, and cultural imperialism to dominate a country.

Looking back at the history, during the 1870s and 1900, Africa was confronted with European imperialist antagonism, military invasions, and subsequent conquest and colonization. Many parts of the continent, apart from Ethiopia and Liberia, had been under colonial ruling by European powers – Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Epic’ is the genre of the film that African film makers use to achieve their purpose of counter-discourse mostly because these epic films are filled with highly accomplished and aesthetic description of African traditions and culture. Therefore, African cosmology in these stories offers us an insight into how African people see the world and its peoples.

Keita’ is the film that uses recitation of creation myths which is based on the narration of ancestral heroes and their endeavors and achievements by connecting them to the present generations. Therefore, they not only qualify the persons in their cosmology but are able to apply those views to the wider world.

Thal Sandy Tun