By Paul Ndiho
August 4, 2011
Botswana filmmaker Billy Kokorwe was recently here in the United States to promote his new movie, “The African Democrat.” The film chronicles the political life of Botswana’s second president, Sir Ketumile Masire. The film is part of the moviemaker’s personal campaign to improve the way others see the accomplishments of his country and Africa. Paul Ndiho has more:
Four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment have made Botswana what U.S. officials say is one of the most dynamic economies in Africa, dominated by diamond mining, and with a growing tourism sector.
“The African Democrat” film follows the life of President Ketumile Masire, a former school teacher who founded Botswana’s Democratic Party.
Filmmaker Billy Kokorwe says he wants the Western media to show Africa in a better light, and for their audiences to understand Africa differently.
“The main objective is not really for Africa to be seen as a continent that comes with begging bowl. We want Africa to be seen in a positive light for the western peoples to actually understand Africa. For the Western countries to not just give aid to Africa, but to sometimes deal more with development of Africa.”
Kokorwe takes issue with editors of Western media, asking them not to tar the whole continent with the same broad brush.
“I am concerned about negative images really. You can tell a story without showing babies who are skinny and are suffering. You can still tell that story without showing images that are demeaning. Because I feel that the images really are demeaning, because if you are going to tell a story about anything that is going to happen in America for example you are not going to show the worst images. You can still tell that story in a positive way.”
The filmmaker says that when he thinks about the African continent, he is reminded that Africa is -not- all gloom and doom:
“What comes to mind is a film that I just made about our second President Ketumile Masire, who took Botswana from being one of the 25 poorest countries in the world to being a middle income country. What comes to mind is the story of South Africa and how Africa is progressing. What comes to mind is how Africa as a whole is beginning to unite through the AU.”
Kokorwe says that Africans themselves are leading the growth in investment across the continent, and says they are optimistic about their prospects, though he says Africa still needs the help of other nations.
Kokorwe says he is talking with independent film festival directors, distributors and producers to see how best to market his movie, “The African Democrat.” Its part of what he calls his “Positive Africa Image Campaign,” one that he would like to take to Europe and Asia and following his stop in the United States.