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Film Review: Makongo
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Elvis Sabin Ngaïbino, Argentina, Central African Republic, Italy 2020

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been watching America fight discrimination and racism, embracing slogans like Black Lives Matter, a message that with Biden as president will hopefully bring our country and society together with a chance to heal old wounds. It was thus a surprise to watch a documentary disclosing discrimination in black Africa, which is faced by the Aka-Pygmy communities in Central Africa. Their way of life living deep in the forest has other communities seeing them more as animals than as humans. Education is their only escape from poverty – they are trying hard, but this takes money. Two young men, Albert and André, have received their diplomas and return to their forest community with an idea of how to raise money toward this goal. Their most valuable item is a caterpillar delicacy, which involves the entire community in its preparation. These two courageous men then head to the city to sell their goods. They fight off discrimination but are determined to raise the money for the school.

The film reminded me of a community I actually met in Uganda in 2013. I’d carried a backpack full of pencils, notebooks, and books and was searching for needy schools in remote areas. The hardest part was convincing a guide to take us there; he really didn’t think it was a good idea and it was not a tourist place, but we persisted. We eventually crossed Lake Bunyonyi by boat, the deepest lake in Africa, and then climbed up a mountain for well over two hours to reach the school. We were pleasantly surprised when greeted by a lovely group of dedicated teachers and children in uniforms attending a very basic and simple school. They sang for us and wanted us to return the favor. This was a challenge! To come up with a song within our small international group who really didn’t know each other? Then a British chap, Jack, had a brilliant idea -- Christmas carols! This struck a chord. After donating money and my items, we departed with positive hopes for their future.

Elvis Sabin Ngaïbino wrote, directed, and filmed this remarkable documentary. How truly hard they worked for such little money – and how few children can go to school. Perhaps an idea for our club is to support this community?! Contact: Daniele Incalcaterra, Makongo Films: