Last week, I was compiling a list of ‘international development’ related documentaries and films. Going over the numerous films, I remembered one of my favourite films titled Enjoy Poverty. The film by Renzo Martens, has rightfully received much attention. In the documentary, Martens travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the Congo, Martens ‘educates’ Congolese citizens about their most valuable resource- their poverty. Proof of the value of Congolese poverty, Martens claims, is the billions of dollars in aid money nations give annually, in the name of eradicating poverty. Martens also argues that western journalists make a steady income by taking photographs of, and writing articles about poverty. It is this evidence that allows Martens to play a role in helping some Congolese friends recognize poverty as their most useful ‘natural’ resource. Martens trains local photographers to take pictures of disaster and poverty. There is a striking scene, in which the Congolese photographers go into a house with malnourished children and women. If my memory is correct (as I watched the film a year ago), Martens tells the photographers to make sure the children are unclothed and look as sick as possible.
Ultimately the photographers are unable to enjoy this poverty, when their photographs cannot compete with those of western journalists. While Martens has received criticism for the arrogant, white saviour role, he takes on in the film, it is exactly this character that is so effective in making the connection between colonial administers and current development workers. I think this film is able to challenge current development methods, especially the idea of international aid. It also effectively confronts the way westerners think about the continent of Africa, depict it, and make a living off of its poverty. If you are interested in satirical documentaries, you should definitely watch this film.
Below is a trailer in French as I was unable to find one in English.