Thursday, 13 November 2008

Land Matters

Today I had the privilege to attend the pre-premiere of Land Matters, a film by Thorsten Schütte on the complexities surrounding land reform in Namibia. The screening in Berlin was facilitated by IfA, the German Institute for International Relations, which, via its project ZIVIK, has funded activities using the film to promote mutual understanding and co-operation among people affected by the land reforms in Namibia. In the film, landowners of different backgrounds and - to a lesser extent - agricultural labourers explain what has driven them to take up farming and what their dreams, successes and concerns are. The film shows efforts undertaken by farmers' associations, run by people with European ancestry, to support new owners, who are predominantly black and inexperienced in commercial farming. It touches upon a range of issues - people's overwhelming desire to till their own land, racism, commercial farming vs. subsistence farming, economic justice, environmental protection - but in a beautifully subtle manner, which leaves it to the spectator to make up her own mind. I was particularly impressed by a scene in which landowners of different backgrounds discussed ways of coping with theft and poaching - it felt like a constitutional assembly: people putting their heads together to plan the rules and enforcement mechanisms that would shape their emerging community. Very moving.