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A documentary film on the difficulties and the struggle of Dahra to go to school in region Afar of Ethiopia

About the project

 Who is Dahra?

Dahra of the picture is a young girl about 11 years old I met in the Afar region of Ethiopia in 2004, during a field mission with Doctors Without Borders (MSF). She was looking after her sister tole and her little brother Mohamed, both our patients at the hospital for tuberculosis of Galaha.

I was inspired by her, when I outlined the character of the protagonist of this film. Dahra was curious, independent, hardworking in helping her relatives, respectful of the reserve demanded by her status of young Afar girl, but ready, at the same time, to burst out laughing in front of somebody she trusted. She is the “logo” of this campaign, an important role, and I hope to be able to tell her it. Yes, because this project will be realized just at Galaha and I hope to meet her again. In fact, her camp was not very far from the hospital. Well, she cannot be the protagonist, since she is married with children, but maybe some younger sister will participate in the film...

 Some details about the previous film

The name of the project of my first film in Afar Region, filmed in March 2014 thank to a crowdfunding on this same platform, was “Tole”. But after the name of the film changed and became “Fatuma and Asya”, to pay homage to the two protagonists, Fatuma Dawud Mahamad and Asya Adan ‘Ibidis. Yes, because, as often it happens, when one films a documentary, moreover in a “difficult” environment, the unexpected events are everyday affairs and one must adapt himself to the new situation. The film, which had to have an only protagonist, had two of them and it was correct to respect their names.

It’s not yet public, because it’s still participating in some festivals, but the DVD of the French version will be soon published by L’Harmattan publishing house of Paris. Meantime, you can watch the trailer at:

 Why another film with Afar people?

“Fatuma and Asya”, the film I made last year, turned out to be a little success: selected until now at 4 festivals: 3rd Delhi International Film Festival 2014, Ethnocineca - Ethnographic and Documentary Filmfest Vienna 2015, AfryKamera - African Film Festival, Warsaw 2015, and the 14th RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, Bristol 2015, it has been even invited, out of competition, to the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) of Harare (Zimbabwe). But the best success is that the Afar who watched the film, liked it, and I’m very proud of it. In fact, the first public screening took place at an Afar diaspora’s meeting in Brussels.

Together with Karera we thought that there are still many subjects to talk about, to make known the Afar people in the right, and -why not- nice way. There is the reason to continue, taking also advantage of the last experience, which will allow to organize the time better, including the selection of the protagonist, the movements, the shooting...   

 Who will benefit from the film?

When I do field missions for Doctors Without Borders, I always wonder who will benefit from the mission I have to do, and even if it will be really useful. It isn’t a futile question. One would be pushed to think that is automatic that a humanitarian mission is always something excellent, but it’s already happened that, in my activity as an anthropologist, I realized that sometimes we forget to seek the advice of the persons concerned and in this way the achievements are not at the level we wanted. I learnt, by experience, that one must always discuss and verify everything, instead of being certain, since the beginning, to have the right solution. When I filmed “Fatuma and Asya”, I always discussed the subjects I wanted to touch with the families of the protagonists, and sometimes the results were funny... The father of Fatuma, when I asked him if he agrees that I speak about the alternative, the Afar traditional one, to the customary, compulsory marriage called absuma, he immediately replied that the Afar can kill for two only reasons, the camel and the absuma... Well, the start was not encouraging, but, after a passionate discussion, he agreed that this possibility really exists in the Afar tradition, and he gave his authorization to the subject and to the participation of his daughter.

My wish, which coincides with that of Karera, the association of Afar women which supports this project, is to show the traditions and the problems of the Afar people from a point of view they can recognize as their own, trying moreover to give voice to young girls, which is not very common.

My first public should be the Afar people, even if the aim is that of showing the Afar people to others. Therefore, I would, and I will do all the possible to make it real, that Afar people benefit from this film.

 The script

The protagonist will be always a young girl, and once again the intention is to take on her eye to show the subjects touched in the film. This time, I will not show the everyday life, but two important and dramatic subjects in the life of the Afar people in Ethiopia: the education of the girls and the consequences of the land-grabbing. The education is a very recent possibility in Afar Region and it’s still very limited for all, boys and girls. Marginalized and forgotten for a long time, Afar people began to have schools only in these last years. So, only the youngest attend today the school, if they are lucky enough to have a school near them. In fact, Dahra, who is 11 years old, never went to school, but she would like to go there, and when she sees that children younger than her there go, she asks her mother, who says no, says that she is too old and that it’s almost time to marry for her. What is the point of going to school? But Dahra is determined and she goes on with her little/big struggle, so that she snatches a yes. But then, the eviction from her land, as a consequence of the land-grabbing of which the Afar people of the Awash Valley were victims for years, will upset her life and the reached success too. Will be able, our little Dahra, to continue to go to school?

Well, it should not be a fiction film, but a documentary, and the script I prepared is just an outline to organize the discourse. In this way you can have an idea about the project.  

 The partners of the project

The main partner is the association Karera - Femmes de la Corne d’Afrique of Paris ([email protected] ). Karera will help the crowd-funding among the Afar people in Europe, and will participate in the decision making to carry out the project and in the distribution of the film. Like for the previous film, the Associazione Culturale Ghazala of Genoa ( ) will give its support to spread the project and the film. On the field, I will be in touch with APDA - Afar Pastoralists Developments Association ( ),  which will facilitate the contacts with the Afar families living in the place of the film.

Moreover, I can count on an important network of Afar elders and women engaged with various associations, a fundamental help to produce a film “with” and not only “on” the Afar people. My translator will be one of these women.

 Place and period of the filming

The place will be Galaha, a meeting point for several Afar families at the confluence between Millé and Awash rivers. It’s the place where Doctors Without Borders used to run the hospital for tuberculosis where I worked in 2004. The hospital is no more working, because the land where it was built is now in the danger area, subject to unexpected flooding provoked by the big dam of Tendaho, some km to the north. Also many Afar families were obliged to leave their land and this will be one of the subjects of the film.

The period of the filming will be between the end of September and the beginning of October, in order to shoot the last days of rain and, maybe, the traditional events (festivals, marriages...) that occur every year at the end of the raining season, a very important period in the life of the Afar people.   

What are the funds for?

 In which way the collected money will be used?

Not for the flight, which will be paid by a French association, and not for the editing. Like for “Fatuma and Asya”, also this time I will film alone, and most of the post-production will be “homemade”.

This time, more than in the case of the shooting of the previous film, the movements will be numerous, and expensive. I’m planning also a trip of the protagonist, to film what is called “villagization”, following the land-grabbing, and it will be necessary to guarantee a minimum comfort. So, the 60% of the budget will be used to rent a 4x4 car suitable for the difficult environment of the Afar Region. The 30% will cover the gifts (gifts are always a duty, they are a sign of respect) and the everyday’s expenses. The last 10% will cover the audio mixing... Yes, last time, I made it, but the result shows that for the audio of a film, a good technician is necessary. Even if the technician is  a volunteer, a studio is necessary and it costs.

About the project owner

 Some info about me

My name is Francesco Sincich and I’m an anthropologist working with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) since 2003. With MSF I was already in the Afar Region of Ethiopia for a mission to the hospital for tuberculosis of Galaha. When I’m in Italy, I work with two associations: AAICA - Associazione Ambulatorio Internazionale ‘Città Aperta’ ( ), giving free health care to illegal immigrants, and the Associazione Culturale Ghazala ( ), involved in this project. With Ghazala, in the past, we supported the APDA - Afar Pastoralist Development Association, namely for a training course for traditional birth attendants.

I began to use the films as a tool of education and communication in 2009, during a mission for MSF on mother and child healthcare in Niger, with “Halima et Absatou”, a short film in Hausa language, made to raise the awareness of the mamans about the danger of too close pregnancies. I continued in 2010 with “Waynaabe” and “Banganà”, two documentaries on the Wodaabe nomadic herders, always in Niger and again there in September-October 2012 to shoot “Lokkol”, with the aim to show and support a primary school we managed to create in 2011 in the camp of the two protagonists. “Banganà”, made by a very little team of three, has been selected in five festivals, including that of Amiens and the Festival Panafricain of Cannes.    

For “Lokkol”, I was alone and I had to learn very quickly to shoot... “Lokkol” has been selected in 7 festivals:  Genova Film Festival 2013, Luxor African Film Festival 2014, Eyes and Lenses - Ethnographic Film Festival Warsaw 2014, XXIII International Festival of Ethnographic Film Belgrade 2014, FIFEQ - Festival International du Film Ethnographique du Québec 2015, Children First - Anthropological Film Festival of Children and Youth Ljubljana 2015, VIVA Festival Sarajevo 2015, and it received a special mention of the jury at the 30th Festival International de Cinéma « Vues d’Afriques » of Montreal, 2014. But, what I really consider as a success (it doesn’t happen often), is that I managed to show the two films to the protagonists. I could show “Banganà” when I was there to shoot “Lokkol”, with a tablet (of course, there is no power in the wild), and “Lokkol”, organizing a screening in remote, thank to the teacher of the school and the parents of the pupils, by taking to the camp a DVD player, a screen, a generator. An Italian donor gave the money for that.

Here you can watch the trailers of “Banganà” and “Lokkol” and the full “Waynaabe”, the documentary used today by Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Belgium:


Banganà (trailer)

Lokkol (trailer)

In March 2014, thanks to the crowd-funding won on this same platform, I shot “Fatuma and Asya”. If I manage to make this next film, I hope to show the old one to the protagonists and their families, as I did in Niger.