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Documentaries: The Witches of Gambaga and Sweet Crude

March 23, 2012

Earlier this week I watched two really  interesting documentaries that I thought I’d share with you here briefly. The first is Witches of Gambaga by Yaba Badoe (mentioned here at Amy Reads previously as she wrote True Murder and was featured in African Love Stories). This short film (at 55 minutes) talks about the Gambaga witch camp in Northern Ghana where women go for sanctuary who are accused of witchcraft.

Through the stories of some of the women in the camp, as well as discussions with activists in the country and the leader of the camp, Badoe explores the belief in witchcraft as it exists in Ghana today, and the ramifications it has on women there. She also discusses the ways in which this belief benefit many, and  how these segments actively encourage the belief.

This was a great movie that explored the various aspects of witchcraft in Ghana, and was very well produced. Africa is a Country, a site I follow for news and information on music, films, and more, listed it as a top film of 2011, so if you don’t believe me, you should at least listen to them! If you want to know more about the film, you can read an interview with Badoe about it on the African Women in Cinema blog.

The second documentary I watched was Sweet Crude, by an American filmmaker about oil and the Niger Delta. If you’ve been following for any time you may have noticed that I have read a bit of Nigerian literature, and I also follow some of the news out of the country. One situation that always shocks me is how little people know or care about the situation in the Niger Delta, where more oil has been spilled than in the Gulf Oil spill. How callous is it that we care only about oil spills if they happen in our backyard? For that reason, I was really looking forward to this movie.

I was concerned what it would be like with an American telling the story, but Sandy Cioffi starts by explaining how she came to learn about the issue, and how important she thought it was to do her research and make sure that by going back and trying to tell the story, she wouldn’t be doing more harm than good. I appreciated her honesty that it wasn’t her story to tell, but that she was doing her best to share it nonetheless.

What I liked best about this film was how much time Cioffi spent in the Delta region talking to people there, and the presence that the locals had in the film. I also really enjoyed the focus she put on the media in the US in particular and the ways in which biased coverage twists our view of the world and does a disservice to others.

Especially interesting, I thought, was the interview between a member of MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and a US journalist where he asks why they have guns if they aren’t terrorists, which I find quite ironical given the level of gun ownership in the US. The way we label certain groups terrorists and then put our support behind others really is interesting to think about.

I found both films really interesting and would highly recommend both.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012 2:07 pm

    Both of them sound really interesting, but you have me especially dying to watch Witches of Gambaga. Also, I’m happy to hear that Sandy Cioffi acknowledges that badvocacy is a real possibility and took steps to prevent it. Thanks for bringing these to our attention, Amy!

    • March 24, 2012 4:25 pm

      Yes, her at least acknowledging that badvocacy (that term is awesome, btw!) is possible was fantastic Ana. Doesn’t mean it was perfect, but at least she was up front that there may be issues!!

  2. March 23, 2012 3:31 pm

    I need to see both of these because they address issues that I don’t know much about, and look like intelligent and sensitive films. I am so glad that they impressed you!

    • March 24, 2012 4:26 pm

      I think you’d like them zibilee! I ordered both from their respective websites :)

  3. March 23, 2012 8:20 pm

    These both sound great…I’m also especially interested in the one about witchcraft in Ghana. Will have to track it down!

    • March 24, 2012 4:26 pm

      Good luck Emily! They are both available on their websites online, so makes it easier to source them.

  4. accrabooksandthings permalink
    March 24, 2012 6:09 pm

    Enjoyed your reviews of these two films. Yaba Badoe’s film “Witches of Gambaga” is good, and if you ever get a chance to hear Badoe talk about the making of the film, that too is very interesting!

    • March 24, 2012 6:50 pm

      I would love to get the chance to hear her speak some day accrabooksandthings! I can hope :)

  5. March 24, 2012 10:54 pm

    They both sound great and important for raising awareness of two very important issues. I had heard about the Niger oil spill earlier this month. You are absolutely correct that we really should pay more attention to these types of tragedies even when they do not occur in our own backyard.

    • April 8, 2012 6:39 pm

      There have been countless spills in Nigeria and elsewhere yet rarely does it hit our news, so crazy to think about Michelle!

  6. March 25, 2012 5:46 am

    I really like the emphasis you put on our twisted perception of reality. It’s so true. I’ve always been annoyed with news shows when they tell about a tragedy happened somewhere in the world and ends with ‘no Danes were hurt’ – like it doesn’t matter as much as long as none from our country has been hurt…

    • April 8, 2012 6:39 pm

      Yes!! That is so true Christinasr! The way these events are spun are such that only when it affects us does it begin to matter. Scary and sad really.

  7. March 25, 2012 1:16 pm

    Great to read your thoughts on the witches of Gambaga.

  8. March 25, 2012 2:14 pm

    Hey Amy, you might be interested to have a look at a series of photos my husband took in the witch camps

    Incredibly sad places.

  9. March 26, 2012 1:34 pm

    I ll keep eye out for witches of Gambaga it sounds really interesting documentry ,all the best stu

  10. April 15, 2012 8:44 am

    I’m just doing some research on the Aje ‘witches’ in Yorubaland and stumbled on this post, and on your site. Dropping a line to say that you are covering great topics in an accessible way. Thank you.

    • April 25, 2012 4:58 pm

      Thank you so much Minna. I’ve followed your site for some time so the compliment certainly means a lot. Love what you do and one of these days I’ll actually start commenting.


  1. March 2012 Reading Wrap-Up « Amy Reads

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