Critique of Shooting with Mursi

Shooting with Mursi is the winner of best documentary at The National Geographic All Roads Film Festival  produced and directed by Ben Young. The first screening of the film was in 2009.

Olisarali Olibui is a member of the Mursi, a nomadic Ethopian tribe who live in the Omo Valley. After a brief stint in Australia, Olibui learned English and was given a video camera, laptop and solar charger to document the life of his fellow tribesman. Much of the footage in Shooting with Mursi is filmed by Olibui. This allows many of the segments and interviews in the film to be truly genuine and real, as the other members of the Mursi feel totally comfortable talking to one of their own.
The film addresses numerous issues facing the Mursi tribe. Firstly, tourism is changing their culture. Roads are being built and people from all over the world drive into their community and snap photos and videos, disrupting the Mursi lifestyle. Though the tourists take the photos back to their respective countries and make hundreds of dollars, they only pay the tribe the equivalent of ten American cents. Secondly, the government allows tourists to pay thousands of dollars to hunt when the Mursi cannot even step foot on that specific land, though it’s their own. Thirdly, tribes in Ethiopia are in a constant battle over food. They fight and kill each other over stealing such commodities.  In the Mursi’s culture, cattle is currency – measuring a man’s wealth and status.

Shooting with Mursi explores the reality of a culture slowly heading towards extinction, an unconventional opinion of beauty and the importance of an organized governing body. The film ends as many tribes come together to discuss the problems facing their community, the first sign they are slowly making progress in having their voices heard.

This film is different than any other documentary I’ve seen. It seems genuine without that “fake” reality of staging or reenactment. It’s told from a perspective that is experiencing the conflict and struggle, engaging the viewer as we come to understand the triumphs and struggles facing the Mursi people.

The statement this documentary makes is that people have to pay attention. It’s very easy to ignore or never begin to think about people across the world, so different from us. People think nomads or tribes are things of the past, but they’re not; they still exist. It draws attention to other cultures, and other ways of life – challenging the conventional idea of “the norm.” The film uses no special effects or advanced angles or lighting. It’s raw, but that’s what makes it so endearing.

When I watch this film I think about my little exposure to the rest of the world. Though I’ve read about tribes and rural countries in textbooks, I know I can’t really understand it without going there to experience it first hand. Even I sometimes find myself thinking everyone has electricity, lives in established structures and has a well-organized and well-maintained governing system. The idea that people still hunt and don’t have manufactured goods honestly seems a little strange. The film made me hate Westerners, watching how they come in and are slowly destroying this beautiful culture. Selfish tourists will pay ten thousand dollars to kill some of the very few animals the Mursi have to live off. It made me want to go to Ethiopia and do something, but it also reminded me of the wars and political strife that are taking place in the Country. This film accurately reveals a struggle that few take the time to fix or even give a thought to. It made me wonder what will happen in the future. The Mursi tribe is a group I will periodically check up on, hoping that stories of success outnumber those of defeat.


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