This is one of my favourite sequences that I shot for Oxfam. It's only three minutes long, almost running in real time, but something profound happens - ignorance and prejudice are confronted, and someone's mind is changed. This was shot back in 2007, and even then there was massive ignorance of HIV and AIDS in rural Angola. Beatriz and Pedro volunteer for an organisation in Kuito and bravely go out into markets and transport hubs to spread the lesson of safer sex and protection. Beatriz's courage is particularly great in revealing her own HIV+ status in public, unsure of what the response will be - almost certainly disbelief, but quite possibly hostility, even violence.
I show this sequence to students and NGO workers as an example of what I think documentary film-making around human rights issues should be - not a prepared script of an organisation's pitch given in voice-over with illustrative visuals and the occasional quote or interview with an expert - but actually seeing change happen on screen in front of you.
I made this video for Oxfam in 2006 after a prolonged drought which was having a severe impact on Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania.
It was not only the lack of rain that was causing the crisis but the historic injustices that have taken the land that the Maasai have used to graze their herds for generations. First the British pushed them out of the Serengeti, then the Tanzanian government expelled them from the Ngorongoro crater.
The irony is that these National Parks and Conservation Areas only teem with wildlife because the Maasai do not hunt, they depend entirely on their domestic animals. They are suffering for creating wildlife reserves for others to exploit.
This is a short film I made for Oxfam during an amazing, if tragic, journey through northern Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2005 at the height of a major drought. I met different groups badly affected by the drought including Fulani (also known as Fula, Fulbe or Peulh in Francophone countries) and Kel Tamashek (or 'speakers of Tamashek' as the groups known by outsiders as Touareg prefer to be called). Although these are people with distinct cultures they share similar problems as pastoralists - people whose livelihood is centered on keeping herds of animals.
Pastoralists groups are undervalued for the contribution they make to modern African economies, and frequently viewed with mistrust and even fear. A history of conflict with central governments, and rebellion born out of marginalisation exacerbates this neglect of the pastoralist economy. Agriculture is promoted as a better way of life, even where it is inappropriate and doomed to ultimate failure in arid and semi-arid areas.
My guide on this journey was Mohamed Ali Ag Mattahel, one of the Kel Tamashek, and at that time the coordinator of a pioneering pastoralist programme working across borders and ethnic boundaries. I owe him massively for hospitality in his 'Hôtel Aux Mille Etoiles' – drinking sweet tea by firelight and sleeping under the stars in the dunes.
The music is by the wonderful Senegalese musician, Baaba Maal, himself Fulani. When I spoke to him about my experiences he immediately agreed to allow me to use this track, and also recorded an appeal piece to raise money for work with pastoralist communities. He has continued to work with Oxfam since then.
The track is Lam Tooro from the largely acoustic album Djam Leelii recorded with blind guitarist and long-time friend Mansour Seck. Re-released with extra tracks by Yoff Productions/Palm Pictures in 1998.