English/Chinese/Arabic/Ma'di/Toposa with English subtitles, 2014, 105 minutes, color, France/Austria
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematic Bravery
As war-ravaged South Sudan claims independence from North Sudan and its brutal President, Omar al-Bashir, a tiny, homemade prop plane wings in from France. It is piloted by eagle-eyed documentarian Hubert Sauper, who is mining for stories in a land trapped in the past but careening toward an apocalyptic future.
Like his flying machine, Sauper intuitively zooms in for close-ups and out for perspective, yielding shocking and profound insights about the contours of contemporary colonialism. A Chinese company extracts 300,000 barrels of oil a day as locals outside its gates die from water poisoned by the plant. Texas missionaries set up shop—erecting fences, issuing solar-powered electronic bibles, and insisting on clothing naked villagers. Encounters with opinionated Sudanese citizens, U.N. workers, an elder who has unwittingly signed away 600,000 hectares of community land, or financiers at a Sudanese investment summit bring into focus foreign fantasies—insidious and overt, with or without guns—of possessing Africa. Brimming with visual metaphor and grounded in honest human contact, We Come as Friends is an electrifying collage of horrifying, but sometimes poetic, contradictions.
Director: Hubert Sauper
Screenwriter: Hubert Sauper
Producers: Hubert Sauper, Gabriele Kranzelbinder
Cinematographers: Hubert Sauper, Barney Broomfiled
Editor: Denise Vindevogel