Angola, just under the radar right now, is on the verge of becoming very big news around the world. China is positioned to be the economic powerhouse of this century, but the largely untold story of its global ascent is taking place right now in Africa. After decades of devastation wrought by civil wars, China is rebuilding the continent in hopes of an early grab at its potentially immense untapped oil reserves. The epicenter is Angola.
For three weeks, two members of the International Film and Performance company, CABULA6, will ride the trains of the Benguela Railway from Lobito to Kuito, following the story of the route’s rebirth during the current period of peacetime - after more than forty years of civil strife and war.
We will travel with two tiny HD cameras and film the trip: the scenery, the railways and the people we meet - Chinese and Angolan construction workers, Railway conductors and engineers, Fellow Passengers, HALO trust de-mining workers, local and foreign businessmen and everyday people who fled during the war now returning to the land and towns around the Railroad tracks to rebuild their lives.
The trip has three main goals:
1) To make a short documentary film about the railway, it’s current rebirth.
2) To serve as research for a stage performance piece to be presented in major theaters and festivals in Europe in 2010 - in Austria, Germany, Belgium and Portugal and eventually in the United States and hopefully Africa. (a piece about how impossible it is to make the following film)
3) And finally, to serve as research for a feature film script about a brother and sister born in Angola and raised in Portugal who travel together for the first time to Africa to take care of unfinished family business. It will be a road movie beginning in Lisbon and ending in the high plains of Angola in the town of Kuito. The aim is to have this script completed in 2010 in order to eventually shoot the feature film in 2011.
WHAT WE NEED
We are looking for funds to help pay for transportation in Angola and to hire a Guide/Translator who speaks Umbundu and Portuguese. We have found this amazing guy who used to be in the armed forces and fits the bill. We'd love to have him travel with us.
BY THE WAY
This is a very strangely personal project. I grew up in Detroit as one of the only white kids in my neighborhood. It was the 70s. Everyone talked about black is beautiful and back to Africa, even if no one really knew where Africa was. I was an anomaly. i wasn't black, but other than my parents, I didn't really know any white people. My friends from the Nation of Islam called me and my mom white devils, but we still played together. I could dance, play sports and deflect being pigeon-holed or defined with the alacrity of an eel at the bottom of the ocean. The idea of ''race'' was enormously important, as I imagine for most Americans, and entirely limited and rigid in scope. Things are forever being reduced at the expense of complex contradictory lived experience. I've spent most of my life being trapped between identities and cultural belongings, unable to land comfortably anywhere - let alone understand where I am.
A year ago, I had the opportunity to go to Lisbon to work on a project and I was struck by the way that blacks and whites dealt with each other. I don't know how to describe it. It's different than anywhere else in Europe, and different than in the States. It was familiar yet...different. Almost like landing in a a parallel reality. This little itch, the slight shift in perception led me to start interviewing and filming and ultimately has through a very circuitous route led me to this story of the Chinese in Angola.
Sure, I'm interested in the geopolitical implications of China, the world's next great superpower, feeding it's tremendous needs for natural resources along a trade route associated with the transatlantic slave trade, the British Empire's copper trade as well as the battles between the United States and Soviet Union during the cold war - as if this track of land were cursed or destined to be where global power struggles are played out. But more than this, I am looking for the total mind-blow of meeting a Chinese-African girl who speaks Umbundu and dances Kuduro. I am looking for the cliched notions of what is "African" and what is "European" to combust. What about young "Chinese" boys and girls born and raised in Angola who may in fact be "more African" than black Europeans? I want to search out the contradictions and examples of people's complex lives and experiences which defy simple categorization as well as people's desires to reduce their own and other people's identities to something manageable - even if it doesn't reflect the complex reality.
In this way, its a very personal project. Along the way, I'm somehow hoping to free myself from the shackles on my mind...
- (51 days)