To know the pygmies VIII, working with a researcher

I finally show you something really good in the ‘To know the pygmies’ series. A documentary movie in which we follow the linguistic researcher Pascale Paulin and the Baka hunter and medicine man Sumba Ngogo Ndong Azombo Alain. First they work at the university of Lyon, then they go on a tour through the forests of Gabon.She asks him the difficult task to repeat words in the Baka language of his region, and then to whistle them. They both talk about the work, its importance, his understanding of it. In the next scenes we see them depart to Gabon, meet his group, and make a tour on foot through the forests of northern Gabon with 13 people. The Baka gather and hunt food on the way, show how they prepare it, make camps for the night, get lost in the forest. We see them meet with other groups. All the while Pascale Paulin and Sumba are working away at the language, the names of plants and animals.

This documentary is one of the best I have ever seen in terms of ‘getting to know the pygmies’, my series which talks mostly about the impossibility to get un-filtered (by western eyes) and non-clichéd information about pygmies. While watching, you truly feel among them, getting a glimpse of daily life, even if it is translated to us by the experience of Pascale Paulin. This glimpse is not romanticized, neither is there an emphasis on the problematics the pygmies are confronted with. They are not ‘othered’ in the horrible ways we are used to, thanks to attitude of the researcher, just working away, working together, and the camerawork of filmmaker Laurent Maget who is responsible for the movie. Not one moment do we see the cliché ‘freak’ image of the white, taller researcher next to the smaller pygmies. The camera stays low when portraying people, so we never see the ‘usual’ top shot image of the pygmies, to emphasise how ‘different’ they are (cfr. the video in the post ‘pygmy dance’) . While writing this, I feel quite sorry to come back to and emphasize the clichés now that I found an example where they are absent. But it is really the sole example and such a relief to find a ‘normal’ imagery, with many close-ups, filmed like an action movie.

Beautiful camerawork too. Watch it.