Published May 05, 2009What might be the most fascinating thing about Renzo Martens' documentary on the exploitation of African poverty for Western consumption is that it is framed as a comedy, albeit a rage-filled, pitch-black, nauseating and often horrifying one. But a comedy nonetheless. While nearly impossible to watch and deliberately confrontational, proving to be a hell of a doc in the process, it would make a fantastic companion piece to glib colonial soap opera Slumdog Millionaire.
Controversial Danish documentarian Renzo Martens spent three years travelling through the Democratic Republic of Congo, observing artists making a living photographing malnourished children and polished aid workers giving handouts with a big smile and camera on hand for the photo-op. Tackling UN soldiers, Doctors Without Borders and notions of wealth, Martens slams those who use suffering and poverty as a means of feeling appreciative for their own lifestyles and inner-growth.
Blatantly encouraging impoverished Congolese peoples to find a way to market and utilize their poverty for fiscal gain, Renzo Martens constructs a huge neon sign in the middle of a village reading "Enjoy Poverty" to attract attention from those familiar with neon signs as a representation of consumer comforts and purchasing power.
Anyone sensitive about literally seeing people starve to death, or coping with dead bodies, or the humanization of children typically depicted as cartoon-ish scarecrows with flies swarming around their heads should steer clear of this documentary. This one is as "in your face" as documentaries get, which is entirely necessary, as it says exactly what needs to be said, regardless of political correctness.
Attending the screening of this one might be fun, just to see the facial expressions of particularly pretentious Liberals that claim to be "worldly" and "issue-oriented." Things become far more complicated when that pesky "humanity" thing comes into play. (Inti Films)