CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: The Silence of the Forest (2003)

The Silence of the Forest is a 2003 movie that’s notable in a few ways. It’s the first feature film made in the Central African Republic, directed by Didier Ouénangaré, and based of the novel by the same name by Étienne Goyémidé.

It’s also notable for addressing the racism Pygmy people face in Africa, and is a interesting twist on the “white saviour” movie trope from a black African angle – think of an African Dances with Wolves.

Gonaba, a government official, returns to CAR from France full of idealism and hoping to make real change in his home country. The luxury and corruption of the political class he belongs to quickly disillusions him. After seeing their mistreatment, he begins to advocate for the Aka pygmies, who, like many indigenous Pygmy people, face racism, marginalization, and dehumanization from other Africans.

In his naive enthusiasm of the “enlightened saviour”, he goes to live with an Aka tribe deep in the forest – his half-baked plan to educate them to better deal with modern African society eventually going out the window as he instead learns their way of life and culture. And yet, he still cannot totally shake his saviour mentality, leading to serious consequences.

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