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IDFA 2022

The Porters

Les porteurs
Sarah Vanagt
Belgium
2022
32 min
International Premiere
Festival history

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.

Credits
Director
Production
    Sarah Vanagt for Balthasar,
    Alice Lemaire for Michigan Films
    Sarah Vanagt for Balthasar,
    Alice Lemaire for Michigan Films
Cinematography
    Ruben Desiere,
    Jonathan Wannyn
    Ruben Desiere,
    Jonathan Wannyn
Sound Design
    Philippe Ciompi
    Philippe Ciompi
Screening copy
    CBA
    CBA

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