Acclaimed Doc On Chinese Presence In Africa ("When China Met Africa") Now Available On DVD & VOD

by Tambay A. Obenson
October 20, 2011 2:26 AM
5 Comments
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Unless your head has been buried in the sand, or with equanimity in the clouds, you’ll be familiar, even a little bit, with the somewhat recent growing Chinese presence in Africa, and all the complexities and criticisms that have accompanied that development; Some calling it neo-colonialism; others approaching it more from a strictly capitalist standpoint. And still there are other POVs.

It's certainly what we could call a touchy, polarizing matter, and would seemingly make for engrossing documentary fodder.

When China met Africa is a film we profiled earlier this year, when it was to make its debut at the Full Frame Film Festival in April; directed by the same filmmakers who brought us the critically acclaimed Black Gold, an expose into the multi-billion global coffee industry, with Ethiopia at the center of it all, this time, the filmmakers focus their lenses on Zambia, as they investigate China's foray into that African country, told through the lives of both the Chinese and the Zambians, as each side works to negotiate the turbulent paths of this rapidly expanding relationship.

The website for the film has a more detailed writeup:

A historic gathering of over 50 African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia where the lives of three characters unfold. Mr Liu is one of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled across the continent in search of new opportunities. He has just bought his fourth farm and business is booming. In northern Zambia, Mr Li, a project manager for a multinational Chinese company is upgrading Zambia's longest road. Pressure to complete the road on time intensifies when funds from the Zambian government start running out. Meanwhile Zambia's Trade Minister is on route to China to secure millions of dollars of investment. Through the intimate portrayal of these characters, the expanding footprint of a rising global power is laid bare - pointing to a radically different future, not just for Africa, but also for the world.

My anticipation for the documentary sunk when I learned from those who have seen it that it's not as thorough, in-depth and all-encompassing as I thought it to be, and that the African workers employed by these newly established Chinese enterprises do not feature prominently.

Regardless, as I'm of course interested in the subject matter, I'll give this a look if I can get my hands on the film; and you can as well, because it's now available for sale on DVD and VOD. The DVD sells for about $19; however, the VOD download is only available in the UK.

Although, the film continues to screen in theaters around the globe; in London, Lisbon, and Paris in the next week; Vancouver in November. None in the USA. But I'll keep my antennae on alert.

The trailer follows below:

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5 Comments

  • ForeignBlackChick | October 24, 2011 12:34 PMReply

    I live in uganda and many many many chinese men now have african wives and biracial kids. even in the rural areas.

    One chinese aristocrat's son married former Miss Kenya.

  • Mecca | October 20, 2011 8:32 AMReply

    @ Recycler

    The only thing is Chinese-Jamaicans don't bring their culture to Jamaica. They are actually 100% Jamaican.

    But recently Japanese people have been taking over local shops in the island & replacing "jerk chicken" w/ jerk-teriyaki food. ??

  • The Recycler | October 20, 2011 5:23 AMReply

    I give it 3 years before there is a new crop of Chinese-Nigerian population. Just like the Chinese-Jamaicans.

  • Emmanuel | October 20, 2011 5:14 AMReply

    I still remember how shocked I was when my dad told me that he ate at a Chinese restaurant in Nigeria. Initially, I thought he meant that Nigerians were selling fried jollof. But he said, "Nope. Chinese entrepreneurs live and run restaurants in Nigeria."

  • Fah Fah Fah | October 20, 2011 5:09 AMReply

    I've seen the film, enjoyed it very much and found it informative, and have been following it in the news since then. The filmmakers have made it very clear in many print and online interviews that they did not set out make a traditional, structured documentary with academics, talking heads, and analysis of the Africa-China relationship.

    When China Met Africa is intended to be a cinema-verite, slice-of-life piece of filmmaking. You watch the players go about their usual business, and formulate a POV based on that. I think it's fine to want to know more in-depth facts about the topic, but it isn't fair to judge the film based on a set of criteria it wasn't trying to fulfil. Using context clues and gleening insight through the behavior onscreen, one can get a good sense of the relationship. Great doc.

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