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What's behind the West's fascination with "saving" Africa? FRAMED investigates the images and myths that cast a continent as a victim Read more

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This project was successfully funded on July 12, 2014.

What's behind the West's fascination with "saving" Africa? FRAMED investigates the images and myths that cast a continent as a victim

About this project

You can watch the FRAMED trailer here: https://vimeo.com/97756107

The Film

“Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated”  -Binyavanga Wainaina

In American media and pop culture, Africans remain objects of our pity or moral outrage or fascination. The images are deeply disturbing, even enthralling, but they aren’t really about Africans; they’re about us. FRAMED takes a provocative look at image making and activism, following an inspiring young Kenyan photojournalist turned activist who shatters the stereotype of the passive aid recipient. As he challenges American students to focus their efforts close to home, FRAMED turns a lens on popular representations of Africa and Africans, as seen through the eyes of Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina and South African born educator Zine Magubane, who ask a chorus of questions about the selling of suffering.

Boniface Mwangi
Boniface Mwangi

FRAMED tells the story of Boniface Mwangi's work as an image maker and image changer. From the moment he saw how his own photography could heal Kenyan wounds, he repurposed images of violence to promote reconciliation, and rallied his peers to jumpstart a creative and political youth movement.  Visiting an American college, he challenges students to turn their attention to struggling communities around them. “Why do you want to fly all that way, and on your way to the airport you pass poverty, to go and help poverty in Kenya?” 

Zine Magubane
Zine Magubane

Along the way, we meet Zine Magubane, who was born in South Africa and teaches American college students at Boston College about the portrayal of Africa in American media and pop culture.  “When you see celebrity activists in Darfur or elsewhere,” she says, “you'd think there were no African think tanks, no African universities, no African human rights lawyers working on this issue”.

Binyavanga Wainaina
Binyavanga Wainaina

Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina's adolescence was marked by the forces of western development and "aid".  Recently described as a "memoirist with a mission" in Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people, Binyavanga is the author of a memoir about coming of age in 1980s Kenya.  He remembers seeing "We Are the World" as a 14-year old and discovering what the world thinks it means to be “African.”  

Why Should I Care?

We’re making this film because we believe it’s about something that should matter to all of us.  FRAMED examines the western relationship to Africa and Africans but it’s also about how we create difference, how we unconsciously make some people more powerful and others weaker, and how it’s often easier to do that than to take a hard look at ourselves. We want this film to spark conversation and debate among students, educators, families, friends and colleagues.

Images reach us faster today than ever: through Facebook, twitter, “voluntourism” dispatches, and branded social causes.  Our response to the images we see of Africans makes us feel like good, caring people who can make a difference.  We want this film to speak to that sincere intention, by taking a second look at the framing of Africa in crisis, and listening to African experiences and perspectives; to explore how our “saving” ultimately undermines the agency and self-determination of Africans, and how we might be complicit in creating the same inequalities we hope to erase.

As an example, the film features a cautionary tale: The KONY 2012 campaign was a watershed moment for American activism around Africa.  Hours after a little-known organization named Invisible Children released a 30-minute film urging the world to help find and capture Lords Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, KONY 2012 was on its way to becoming the most viral video of all time. In one day it hit a million views; six days later, 100 million.  African critics dubbed KONY 2012 a “White Man’s Burden for the Facebook Generation,” raising provocative questions about privilege, power, and misrepresentations of Africa.  A similar debate erupted recently over the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

KONY 2012 also presented another line of questioning that we want to pursue in the film: Why did millions of young Americans seem to be angrier about a faraway Ugandan tyrant than two protracted wars, a shattered economy, and social inequality at home?  Why is it easier to engage online or overseas rather than in our own communities?  At a time when many Americans are struggling to find a job or put food on the table or pay for mounting student debt, we think that FRAMED will inspire young people to tackle social inequality locally and nationally.

From the controversy over hashtag activism and the popularity of voluntourism, we know there is an audience for dynamic stories that provoke us to think about how and where we do good in the world.  We believe that FRAMED will be a powerful tool in challenging people to take a critical look at the stories we in the West tell ourselves about Africa. As Zine Magubane says, it's not that we cannot engage with an African crisis, it is how we engage, and how we partner that determine the outcome.    

I'm Sold. How can I help?

This is an exciting and critical time for the film and you will play a key role in our production process by helping us raise funding.  It's incredibly hard to fund documentary films and we've made it so far on a small grant, our own money and sweat equity.  We are confident this film will get fully funded but we need to make it to the crucial next step for that to happen, so we appreciate any help you can give!  The Kickstarter funds will be used for: filming in the US with a young former volunteer who has begun speaking out about “voluntourism”; a trip to film additional footage with Boniface Mwangi and Binyavanga Wainaina in Kenya -- we haven't been able to film there in over a year; editing a beginning rough cut of the film (and paying our editor!), a critical step in order to attract major funders. Anything you can contribute will help us get closer to achieving these goals.  But in addition to the money we raise, we really need to show funders and broadcasters that there is an audience eager to see this film.   If you can spread the word about our Kickstarter campaign to your friends, tweet about it, share our Facebook page, tell people you meet on the street, we would be eternally grateful!

To find out more about us and why we're making this film, check out WHO WE ARE below. 

New Rewards

LAST NEW REWARD! 

Boniface Mwangi, whose work is featured in FRAMED and acclaimed internationally, has generously donated a photograph to one lucky backer! It's a signed original of Nairobi by night. 10x12. It's all yours for a $300 donation. Only one!  

Here are TWO recent new rewards we added: 

T-shirts from Boniface Mwangi's arts and social change collective, PAWA254, which means Power in Swahili + Kenya's country code for national unity.  The tees are coming from Kenya and there's only 10!  For a $75 contribution, it's yours + a digital download of the film....  

And the 2nd reward is a reframing of your own personal portrait photograph into a b/w hand drawing by Portland artist Shawna Archibald.  Send us your photo -- of you, a family member, friend -- and Shawna will create a unique 5x7 drawing of it.  See sample below.  All drawings on archival, acid free paper.   Shawna Archibald has a BFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her prints are in the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey collection at the Portland Art Museum.  Only 5 of these available!  A $100 contribution and you have this very original gift.  

New to Kickstarter? Here's how the process works.

A person who supports a project is called a "backer." The process of giving money to the documentary is called a "pledge." In return for your pledge, we (the creators of the campaign) are able to offer "rewards," depending on the amount you pledge, which you can see to the right of this description. We have to reach our goal to get the money that's been pledged.

How To Pledge

Just click the green “Back This Project” button in the upper right-hand corner. You will be asked to input your pledge amount and select a reward. From there, you will go through the Amazon checkout process. You must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded.  If you have any problems contact us.   

Can You Donate Outside Of The United States?

Yes! Just click on the Amazon Payment Button and you will see that you can pay with a credit card from any country.  But you must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded. If you have any problems just contact us.

Who We Are

Cassandra Herrman, Director / Producer 

Cassandra Herrman's films have broadcast nationally on PBS, globally on Al Jazeera, and screened at numerous film festivals, including SXSW and Sundance. Her work includes films about immigration and exile in the US and in Tanzania, human rights in Zimbabwe and Sudan, and the intersection of music and politics in Senegal and Nigeria. She produced, directed and photographed TULIA, TEXAS, an ITVS-funded documentary about a small town struggling with the aftermath of a controversial drug sting. Cassandra's films have been nominated for two national Emmy awards.

My father was a pilot and when I was in High School he gave me the book “West With the Night”, a memoir by Beryl Markham about growing up in colonial Kenya and learning to fly there.  I was captivated by Markham’s stories of adventure and by her daring, becoming the first woman to make a solo trip across the Atlantic.  Her descriptions of Africa were also enthralling: "mystic ... wild ... a sweltering inferno ... a photographer's paradise ... a hunter's Valhalla ... an escapist's Utopia". I traveled around Kenya and Tanzania for a summer, enrolled in Kiswahili classes at college and after I graduated I went back to live in Nairobi for a year on a volunteer program, interning at the Kenya Television Network. Kenya was a place where I had a sense of discovering myself, so I understand the appeal of "Africa" to young Americans, and I’m empathetic to their desire to go there. But as I went on to work as a journalist and documentary filmmaker, traveling to countries around the continent, and then returning to the U.S. and seeing how those stories and images were received, I realized how damaging the Western framing of Africa can be.  I believe it’s critical that we challenge the collective imagination of Africa that we have in America.  My hope is that this film can contribute to that conversation.

Kathryn Mathers, Co-Producer

Kathryn is a visiting scholar in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, where she teaches global development and urban anthropology and writes when she feels especially passionate for the blog Africa is a Country. She studied archaeology at the University of Cape Town and was an anti-apartheid activist in the late 1980s.

When I first came to the United States from South Africa I couldn’t understand why Americans had such fixed and old fashioned ideas about Africa and Africans, which is how I came to write my book Travel, Humanitarianism and Becoming American in Africa. As I spent time with young Americans traveling abroad I saw how Africa was increasingly becoming a place for them to find themselves and especially to find themselves as people who do good in the world. I am always inspired by these determined and creative young people who want to go to Africa but as a South African I want them to understand what Africans are doing to fix the problems in their own backyards and I want Americans to think about the conditions that help to make life for many Africans so difficult, conditions that they can change through changing their own society and communities. This shift in how we make things better in Africa needs to start or at least include a shift in the way Africa is imagined and represented so a film that can directly challenge these images and replace them with different ones is a vital way for us to start this movement.

Linda Peckham, Editor / Co-Producer

Linda Peckham is a freelance documentary editor in the Bay Area. She brings 20 years experience editing long form character driven stories to this project, as well as personal history and post colonial perspectives about Africa. After growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, Linda came to the US to study film, believing it to be the medium that most inspires change. Many of the award winning documentaries she edits have social justice themes. She previously worked with Cassandra on her Emmy-nominated film Tulia, Texas and PBS hour Sound Tracks.    

Andy Bowley, Cinematographer

Andy Bowley has shot commercials, features, and documentaries for the last 20 years.   Recently he contributed photography on the feature documentaries A Life’s Work, The Woman Who Wasn't There, and Alex Gibney's We Steal Secrets. He's shot award-winning feature pieces for the UN in Rwanda, Kenya, Liberia, Central African Republic and Bosnia; filmed in Nigeria and Senegal for PBS’ Soundtracks series, and in Bangladesh for a Peabody-winning episode of the Al Jazeera series “Fault Lines”. He received a Peabody award in 2005 for his work on Voices of Civil Rights, a History Channel project. His work has won five national Emmy awards and a total of nine national Emmy  nominations.  

Risks and challenges

Anything can happen when you set out to make a documentary film, but the trick is learning how to adapt and keep moving. Since we decided to make this film, Kathryn’s moved to North Carolina, written a book, and had twin daughters. Cassandra has moved across the Bay Bridge and around the country and the world on a lot of airplanes. But we haven’t stopped putting our time and money into this project, and we’re not going to. Why? Because we believe in the power of telling this story on film. Along the way, Linda Peckham joined on as our stellar editor (who needs to get paid!) and the talented Andy Bowley has been gracing us with his “friends and family” rate as our DP. We can’t predict what will happen in people’s lives as we continue filming, but we can pretty safely bet that the images and representations we see of Africa aren’t going anywhere soon. But the conversation is urgent and we believe this film will make a powerful contribution to it. We’re an accomplished team with many films between us and we’re confident that no matter what happens, we will adapt and keep moving. And we will produce a film and a multi-platform campaign that will be compelling, and that will reach a wide audience. But we need your help to get there!

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    32 backers

    Our eternal gratitude, and a shout out on the FRAMED Facebook page!

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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    35 backers

    A signed FRAMED postcard • a thank you credit on our website backers page

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    190 backers

    A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the completed film before anyone else! • a thank you credit on our website backers page.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $35 or more

    127 backers

    A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the completed documentary • our specially curated “No Action! Context First” starter kit: a customized collection of blogs, articles, books and films about the “framing” of Africa • a thank you credit on our website backers page.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $60 or more

    47 backers

    A Limited Edition, pre-release DVD of the completed film • a "collector's item" FRAMED flip book created from footage from the film • “No Action! Context First” starter kit • a thank you credit on our website backers page. (outside US: we'll send you a special GIF of the flip book or add shipping for paper copy)

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    7 backers Limited (3 left of 10)

    NEW REWARD! A T-shirt from Boniface Mwangi's arts and social change collective, PAWA254, which means Power in Swahili + Kenya's country code for national unity. The tees are coming straight from Nairobi and there's only 10! (see photos in the main section) + a digital download of the completed film

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    38 backers

    A Limited Edition, pre-release DVD of the completed film signed by the filmmakers • an 8x10 production still of Boniface Mwangi staging a dramatic protest • our "collector's item" FRAMED flip book created from footage from the film • “No Action! Context First” starter kit • a thank you credit on our website backers page.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    5 backers All gone!

    NEW REWARD! A reframing of an image of your own: Artist Shawna Archibald will create a black and white hand drawn portrait from a photograph that you send her. (see sample photo in the main section)

    Drawings will be 5x7 and on acid free (archival) drawing paper.

    Shawna Archibald is a Portland, Oregon based artist and her prints are in the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey collection at the Portland Art Museum.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $150 or more

    3 backers

    A signed Limited Edition, pre-release DVD • a copy of Binyavanga Wainaina's acclaimed memoir, "One Day I Will Write About This Place" • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit • a thank you credit on our website backers page.(Kindle of the memoir available for international)

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    7 backers

    An ON-SCREEN THANK YOU credit in the festival / theatrical version of the film • A signed Limited Edition, pre-release DVD • a copy of Binyavanga Wainaina's acclaimed memoir, "One Day I Will Write About This Place" • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit • a thank you credit on our website backers page.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    4 backers Limited (21 left of 25)

    Limited edition print of a original painting based on images from FRAMED, by South African artist Hilary Saner. Signed by the artist. Email for details. • 2 tickets to a screening of the film in the location nearest you • On-screen THANK YOU credit in festival / theatrical version of the film • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $300 or more

    1 backer All gone!

    NEW REWARD! ONLY ONE! A signed original photograph taken by Boniface Mwangi, whose work is featured in FRAMED and acclaimed internationally. The image is of Nairobi by night. 10x12. See main page for low resolution sample (a high res copy will go up later). + digital download of the film + FRAMED flip book.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $350 or more

    4 backers Limited (1 left of 5)

    A consultation with the filmmakers. The topic is up to you! Get producing advice or proposal / rough-cut feedback from Cassandra or talk with Kathryn about a writing project, anthropology or research. We can meet in-person if you’re in the Bay Area, other areas will be over phone and/or Skype • On-screen THANK YOU credit in festival / theatrical version of the film • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    2 backers Limited (10 left of 12)

    Insider rough cut screening with film makers in the Bay Area. If you don’t live here, a virtual rough screening is possible or choose 2 tickets to a screening of FRAMED in the location nearest you (sorry, travel not provided) • On-screen THANK YOU credit in festival / theatrical version of the film • DVD • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    1 backer All gone!

    Insider rough cut screening with film makers in the Bay Area. If you don’t live here, a virtual rough screening is possible or choose 2 tickets to a screening of FRAMED in the location nearest you (sorry, travel not provided) • Thank You credit in festival / theatrical version of the film • On-screen THANK YOU credit in festival / theatrical version of the film • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit AND •
    THE ORIGINAL “WE ARE THE WORLD” ALBUM COVER THAT WE USE IN THE FILM, ACCOMPANIED BY A UNIQUE GIFT FASHIONED FROM THE ACTUAL VINYL. **THERE'S ONLY 1 OF THESE!

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    3 backers Limited (5 left of 8)

    PREMIERE & DINNER W/FILMMAKERS. 2 tix to the film premier (or any other screenings near you) and dinner / after-parties with the filmmakers and anyone featured in the film who's present. (travel not included)
    Also includes invitation to provide feedback to our rough-cut • On-screen THANK YOU credit in festival / theatrical version of the film • DVD • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit

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    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $2,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    "ReFRAME" your own footage! Give us your home video or any video of yours and we'll edit it into a tight, lively 5 minutes! (outside the US video has to be deliverable online) • On-screen THANK YOU credit in festival / theatrical version of the film • DVD • FRAMED flip book • “No Action! Context First” starter kit

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    Community screening/ private screening with the filmmakers and depending on availability, one of the subjects of the film. Designed for groups that want to be associated with this important issue and spark dialogue with a screening and Q&A, or a fundraiser or other event. Includes all rewards up to $250 and a a stand alone credit as a founding funder.

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Funding period

- (30 days)