Black Film

THE SILENCE OF THE FOREST (Bassek ba Kobhio & Didier Ouénangaré, 2003) from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.

The Silence of the Forest (trailer)

Bassek ba Kobhio’s most recent work is a bittersweet interrogation of the limits of good intentions, even when native Africans seek to “develop” their countries’ human potential. Gonaba returns from France to his homeland in the Central African Republic with a degree and a cushy government post, but soon finds himself incapable of bringing about the changes in society he promised himself and his “pygmy” neighbors. His search for “authenticity” of culture in the forest’s tribes sees him re-enacting the same mistakes of the long-gone white occupiers, with dire implications.

Native traditionalism vs. throwback “traditionalism” vs. Western-led interventionism: if the flurry of quotation marks didn’t give it away, words come up short on impact in The Silence of the Forest. Scored by legendary jazz musician Manu Dibango, this is a singular movie so beautifully textured and dense with post-colonial theory that it invites viewers to sniff out the political substance of every stone or raindrop. Amidst a debate dominated by Invisible Children and the World Bank, ba Kobhio and Ouénangaré’s film stands as a work of supreme heartbreak. This is not your mother’s Central African Republic. via

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