The Porters

    Les porteurs

    • Sarah Vanagt
    • Belgium
    • 2022
    • 32 min
    • International Premiere
    • IDFA Competition for Short Documentary

    Flemish filmmaker Sarah Vanagt asks young people around Brussels to play a well-known European memory game, in which players must repeat and then add to an ever-growing list of items that they would take with them on a trip. But there’s a bitter twist to this version of the game: all the items need to come from a packing list of 8,000 objects from a colonial expedition to the former Belgian Congo. The list includes a spear, ten beetles, an ivory horn, an elephant-hair chain, and 140 meters of film of pygmies fighting.

    Vanagt shows how amusement at the quirky collection of objects gives way to a sense of unease. The young people use their phones to watch old footage from the expedition, showing white colonists leading Black porters carrying away their own heritage goods for exhibition in Belgium. One of the teenagers wonders why the Black men, given their numbers, don’t overpower the lone white man. From surprise comes anger, giving rise to conversations about subjects such as the structures of colonial oppression that might not be a thing of the past at all.


    • 32 min
    • color
    • DCP
    • Spoken languages: French, Dutch
    • Subtitles in: English
    Sarah Vanagt
    Sarah Vanagt / Balthasar, Alice Lemaire / Michigan Films
    Javier Packer Comyn for CBA
    Ruben Desiere, Jonathan Wannyn
    Effi Weiss

    IDFA history

    International Premiere
    IDFA Competition for Short Documentary

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    IDFA history

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