On filmmaker's participation


A bank banner advertising a credit scheme in Maputo: ‘We will help you redecorate your home, invest in education, go on holiday and look after your health.’

Mozambique is a socialist country but with a privatised infrastructure, such as most education, electricity, water, transport etc… all except the land. So technically people get offered a plot of land but do not own it! The power of banks is only starting, as most people are self employed or do not earn enough to be paid through banks, unless you work for the government. Anything they save, they invest in developing their house: a few more cement blocks or cement bags or corrugated iron… With the privatisation of water, most people have a tap in their yard but many cannot afford it, so children and women will walk to a selling point and buy one jerry can at a time for 20 medicais (50 pence). The electricity is re-bought. They go to petrol stations or kiosks and have a primitive system of “pay as you go.”

Buying Electricity

The other day I asked Mama Teresa to take me with her on her next electricity shopping trip. She fed the babies, changed them and then put one on her back and one on her front to walk the 3km to the petrol station. I did not realise it was this far and in good faith happily left her carrying her double burden while filming her walking through the maze of alleys. Only when I realised she was sweating profusely, I understood the effort involved, so I took both babies. If she can do it, I can do it! And then went on filming… Rather badly! Babies and cameras do not mix well! I think that is when the local community realised that I wasn’t just a white woman, I was a mad white woman… and that deserves many laughs.

But I gained trust by showing the community that the woman and the camera are an item and it was no longer a surprise to be met by me filming in alleys…

Noe Mendelle, Director of SDI, was asked to make a documentary about a housing research project led by Edinburgh University and Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Here are some reflections on her experience.