I am in the middle of watching the movie Half the Sky. Read the book when it first came out, thanks to an airport bookstore in Dubai.
Of course my favorite part is about Edna Aden’s hospital. That is where we lived for a week in 2003, the safest place for Americans in those days between three murders. I don’t have positive memories of the hospital but that is because we were two families in one small, unfurnished apartment, unprepared to spend a week. Two moms with toddlers and we never left that hospital. We hadn’t brought toys or books or underwear or diapers – it was an evacuation. Our husbands went out for food. They would bring back plastic bags of pasta which which we ate from the bag with our hands.
Yeah, not great memories.
But, an amazing hospital!
After the Child of Two Worlds came out in the NYT, a reader wrote that she was surprised I would give birth in Djibouti instead of at Edna Aden’s hospital in Somaliland which she had read about in Half the Sky. As limited as Boufard is here in Djibouti, it is still light years ahead of Somaliland’s facilities.
But, an amazing hospital!
But I’m not writing this post about the hospital. The issues the book raises of slavery and sex trafficking and education and rape and female genital cutting are real and powerful and deep and personal to me. I know the family of a girl who was sold last week. One of the reasons we live here is to work with locals on education issues. Cutting is a common topic of conversation.
I know I’m behind the times in talking about the documentary. Such is life in Djibouti. There are already fabulous reviews and critiques online so I won’t go in-depth.
Seattle Globalist. This article says pretty much what I think. The movie is good, important. Why on earth did Kristof need to bring along actresses who created such awkward scenes? Why couldn’t the women speak for themselves? Their stories are the powerful ones, not the shocked looks on Eva Mendes face or Meg Ryan’s cowardice.
Pop Matters. It opens with the quote: “All the girls have their own songs.”
My question is, if the girls have their own songs, why do we need the western celebrities?
I have the honor of participating in a blog series called War Photography with D.L. Mayfield. My post will come out in a few weeks and we are looking at what it means to present other people’s stories and how to do it in ways that give honor.
Sometimes it means stepping in. Sometimes it means stepping out. I don’t know if it means bringing in famous people for the shock value or the ‘bridge-character’ value as Kristof refers to them.
Another issue is, when and how is it appropriate for westerners to criticize another culture? How can it be done without objectifying? Can it? I came away from the movie torn. Like I said, it is an important film and raises very real issues. On the other hand, it felt rather one-sided. Someone without a global perspective could come away and believe that all Cambodian men enslave preteen girls to brothels. Or all pastors in Sierra Leone get away with rape. Or that ‘our’ culture doesn’t battle with these issues. Or that all you have to do is smile and hug and make a movie to change an ugly situation. Or that there is nothing beautiful in these nations other than little girls who can smile through their suffering. And maybe a few wild animals and an orange sunset.
Kristof writes about others with himself in the picture. Katherine Boo, winner of the National Book Award for her Behind the Beautiful Forevers (my favorite book of the year by far), writes about Indian slum dwellers with herself completely absent. Is one better? More right? These are things I am constantly asking myself as I write about life here in Djibouti. For more thoughts like this, I’ll link you up to my post when it comes out and encourage you to read more of that War Photographers series (link above).
Did the celebrities help or hurt Half the Sky, the movie?