Unearthing the Pen

  • Carol Salter
  • Scotland, Uganda, England
  • 2009
  • 12 min
  • International Premiere
  • IDFA Competition for Short Documentary
A young Ugandan goatherd wants to get an education. There is a small school in his village, and he peers, longingly, in through the window. He is determined to learn to read and write, even through he doesn't understand the teacher's English. Unfortunately, his mission is doomed to failure. Not only are the school fees high and the necessary supplies expensive, but there is an even greater obstacle. Long ago, his forefathers ritually buried and banished the pen. They will not permit him to become literate. We see the boy, in the countryside with his goats, and in a city, musing on the meaning of the pen -- the symbol of the written word. Without the pen, and the knowledge to which it has given rise, there would be no houses, no cars, no cities, but his community does not recognize this. A ritual meeting between some of the older men makes it painfully clear where this deep-rooted distrust of the pen comes from.


  • 12 min
  • color
  • video
  • Spoken languages: English
  • Subtitles in: English
Carol Salter
Carol Salter for Rock Salt Films
Carol Salter
Carol Salter, Emiliano Battista
Carol Salter

IDFA history

International Premiere
IDFA Competition for Short Documentary

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IDFA history

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