By Ogova Ondego
Published May 27, 2014
Ever wanted to cover 12 towns and 24 villages in 40 days and nights by road in the company of celebrities?
Well, your dream is not just valid but could just come true on June 30, 2014 when PAMOKO (meaning ‘Together’ or ‘One Love’ in Tanzanian ‘youth-speak’), a 60-minute film, is screened and discussed in Nairobi. Interested?
Jean-Francois Mean, an Afro-Canadian filmmaker shall be in Nairobi to introduce and show PAMOKO, the film he made in Tanzania in 2013, during the 77th monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum.
Though tackling a grave issue—the plight of albinism in Tanzania—the film, that uses the power of music, poetry, stand-up comedy and activism, is a delightful watch. And yes, it runs just 59 minutes and 40 seconds.
This is a feel-good road trip (or is it road show?) film that uses the power of pop culture—music, poetry, spoken word, storytelling, cell phone text messaging, film shows, dance, radio talk shows and phone call ins, and public ‘baraza’ gatherings—to drive its message (No, not in that infamous NGO-funding-driven manner!) of liberation forward besides debunking deeply held myths and stereotypes about albinos in society.
The film was made at a time when there was an international outcry over the wanton slaughter of albinos in Tanzania (2011-2012). It was widely held that the killing was fueled by the belief that body parts of people with albinism could be used in rituals by witches and wizards to enrich struggling gold miners.
Rather than sit back and throw their hands up in helpless desperation, celebrity musicians, comedians, actors, poets, radio show hosts, broadcasters and filmmakers decided to do something to end the mayhem. They took to educating society on why it was not just immoral but also factually wrong to believe that anyone could become rich through one’s possession of albino body parts.
The means they chose to achieve their aim was through a road show-styled public awareness campaign that covered 12 towns and 24 villages in western Tanzania over a 40 day period.
Mean’s film isn’t simply documenting the proceedings of that road trip. It goes behind the scenes to capture personal problems and challenges in the lives of some of the participants who are seeking to solve the problem at hand. PAMOKO shows the viewer the sacrifices made by some of these people. It captures both the high and the low moments of the solution-seeking journey.
Among the Tanzanian celebrity artists in the film are stand-up comedians King Majuto and Bi Chau, actor and poet Mrisho Mpoto, spoken word artist Fid Q, and bongo flava singer Keisha.
The music, coupled with the running of children along campaign motor vehicles into towns and villages to satiate their curiosity both enlivens and drives the action forward.