Film Review: The Boy from GeitaYou will meet some extraordinary people and truly learn something in this documentary about albinism.
Albinism is the subject of Vic Sarin’s The Boy from Geita, and the director is to be applauded for shedding so much light on a subject that is a mystery to most. He focuses particularly on Tanzania, where albinos suffer persecution and violence at the hands of those superstitious souls who live in otherwise placid-looking villages, but believe there is magical power in their limbs, which are highly covetable.
The two protagonists who emerge live there, both victims of hideous violence stemming from that so-called magical power. They are Mariamu Staford, who was attacked and maimed by a machete-wielding neighbor who cut off both of her arms, and Adam Robert, a boy whose own family members plotted the brutal loss of his wrist and some fingers.
Both are truly inspiring, having survived such nightmares to tell their stories with candor and humor. They may be missing body parts, but they are whole nevertheless, in the truest sense of the word. While rife with harrowing moments, the film is infused with such generosity of spirit and keen intelligence that the viewer feels truly rewarded, if a little queasy at times.
“Human beings are fundamentally afraid of what they don’t understand,” states prominent Canadian businessman Peter Ash, himself an albino and fierce advocate for albinism. And that seems as good an answer as any to questions about why albinos are treated so heinously in places like Tanzania. Ash also figures in the movie’s most heartwarming moment, when he travels from Canada to Africa with the specific purpose of supporting Adam during surgery which will hopefully restore the use of his hands.
Incidentally, the Tanzanian government is decidedly not a fan of The Boy from Geita. At a special Oct. 15 screening of it at the United Nations, Tuvako Manongi, the UN Permanent Representative of Tanzania, who had been invited to speak, criticized the film, calling it "a white man's burden," and asserted that the hunting of albinos is over-exaggerated and not at all rampant in his country.
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