In 2013, Alkebu Film Productions released a 34-minute documentary, Mabele na biso (Our Land), that profiles a community in the Isangi region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that has staunchly refused to be controlled by international aid. Within the matrix of extraordinary initiatives organized in this region, the film focuses primarily on the Mabele Community Radio, that not only offers local programming, but is powered by a generator fuelled by locally produced palm oil. Through its programs, the radio has made significant impacts in the domains of education, agricultural production, women’s rights, and health. As such the radio emerges almost as a character of its own in the film’s larger critique of international aid in Africa. Yet, while the radio is an admittedly inspiring example of community empowerment, the analysis of aid policy offered by key figures in the region is arguably the most compelling aspect of this project.
And this is precisely where things get complicated, for this is a project that both criticizes international aid and is–at least in part–funded by it. What follows is a brief reflection on this film and the ways in which the process of its creation and its potential future shed light on some larger questions of international aid.(…)