• english
  • spanish

Shooting with MursiOne of the two Ethiopian movies that were shown at the NY African Film Festival this year was the documentary Shooting with Mursi (I already reviewed the other one, Lezare). The title of the film makes a double reference, the first one to shooting with a camera, and the second one to shooting with an automatic weapon, something that every Mursi man carries always with him for protection.
The film was shot by Olisarali Olibui, a member of the Mursi tribe in SW Ethiopia. Olisarali traveled to Australia to learn English and returned to his homeland with a powerful weapon, a video camera. He even mentions in the film that a camera is even more powerful than a gun, since it lets him show the culture of his people from their own point of view and a film can travel farther that any bullet and reach the whole world, changing people’s minds.
The documentary is a bit raw in the sense that it hasn’t been polished and edited as a Western documentary would have been, but thanks to that, it’s more real, documenting events as they were happening in front of the camera, showing a culture from the inside, the tensions and forces at work in a changing world that is forcing ancient tribes to change or die.
We are used to hear the voices of outsiders who discuss what to do with these tribes. Many think that they should stay as they are, like a living museum for tourists to visit and take pictures. Others propose to assimilate them, claiming that they have to participate in modern culture and its advantages and that is something unavoidable.
But what do the members of these tribes think? Has anyone asked?
The man behind the camera has experienced the Western world and has returned home to record the thoughts of his people.
What do the Mursi people think about progress and change, about assimilating, about tourists? This documentary answers those and more questions and to understand the Mursi perspective we need to have an open mind and see the world as they see it.
What becomes clear in this film is that the Mursi, and other tribes of the Omo river valley, have no voice in the decisions regarding their land. They are the original inhabitants of this place, however it is people from far away places the ones who are managing their land and directly affecting their life. 
I don’t know if they will ever be heard but to keep their culture and their land protected they need to have some kind of participation in the decisions. I know it’s complicated, but my impression after watching the film is that they should help in managing the land since they had been living there for so long and have taken good care of the place. They also need to profit from tourism since they are those who put their faces, their bodies, and their culture for everyone to see. If that doesn’t happen, their culture will soon be destroyed and the richness of a land will go with it. The Mursi should in some way accommodate to the modern world, so they can advocate for themselves. I also think that the documentary shows that there is little interest in hearing what these people think. To survive, the tribes of the Omo river valley, about 15 of them, need to make peace and arrive to some kind of consent so they can organize and claim their right to participate in the decisions regarding their region.

Mursi online