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France, 2004

Production : Les Films du Raphia, Bärbel Mauch film

Programmed by Olivier Barlet

English, French, German

French, English

The films of Jean-Marie Teno


When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bible. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first elected Prime Minister and President

Tënk's opinion

To tackle the issue of colonialism, Jean-Marie Teno is more linear and educational than usual. This historical memoir explains contemporary violence, injustice, repressions and trauma. The film was commissioned by the German TV channel ZDF to mark the centenary of the 1904-1907 genocide of the Herero people in what’s now Namibia. To understand how Europeans relate to Africa, Teno focuses on missionaries – helping people, but not to be autonomous – the mission is part of state colonialism.
This, for Teno, is the source of the colonial misunderstanding. Using archives from the period and interviews, he documents this alliance between missionary zeal and the colonialist’s gun, between Christian morals and market forces that unleashed the Shoah and apartheid. NGOs’ charity prevents us from moving beyond colonial logic while Africans are being despoiled of their souls and minds. Teno’s assessment is a bitter one. The meditative commentary that accompanies all of his films is not grandiose theorising but a shared exploration, an appeal to evolve, a cry. He is not pessimistic but lucid – this is going to take a long time.

Olivier Barlet
Film critic and editor for Africultures

Item 1 of 4
Item 1 of 4

Item 1 of 4