In A Better World

So, it turns out that the Dust Babies are famous and will be seen around the world.

Sort of.

The movie that was filmed at Mbaruku IDP Camp during my time there in 2009 is actually a big deal.  It’s a Danish film called In A Better World and it tells the story of a doctor who splits his time between a refugee camp in Africa and his home in Denmark.  The film won a Golden Globe last month for Best Foreign Language Film and is nominated for an Academy Award in the same category.

While the film did employ 700 extras from the camp and donate the set materials for the community to start building houses there was one quotation in the Kenyan Daily Nation that just really miffs me:

“She [Jenny Pont, director of a Kenyan-based Production Service Company] explains that the place was good because it had IDPs who had bought land on their own and were beginning the process of resettling.  It is immoral for a film to be shot in an area where people are suffering.”

When I read that out loud to Irene, she started to laugh.  “But they suffer!  They still suffer!”  She stared at me in disbelief as I handed her the article, “how can she says this?”

What, I wonder gave Jenny Pont the idea that people at Mbaruku were not suffering?  Was it the high rate of depression and hopelessness at the camp?  Was it all of the illnesses and diseases going untreated?  Was it the worn out tents, lack of water and general absence of basic needs?  The only thing more immoral than shooting a film in an area where people are suffering is then lying about it.

I found it ironic that on the day we held the medical camp for the residents at Mbaruku, there was a movie hospital set in the middle of the camp.  While we were all huddled in the then unfinished one room schoolhouse that Irene was building for the Dust Babies, there was a “hospital” no more than 60 yards away.  As I watched the fictional hospital take shape and all of the white Land Rovers full of directors and producers and set designers come and go I did something Irene always says she has to do when things get tough: I laughed.  I laughed so that I wouldn’t cry.

That being said, I’ve already added the film to my Netflix queue.

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