Eliamani´s Homestead

Eliamani’s hus­band has left her behind at their cow­dung home on the Tan­zan­ian savan­nah in order to look for work, and she has not heard from him for a long time. There has been very little food in the house for weeks, and she and her child have not eaten any­thing the whole day. All of a sudden Eliamani’s broth­er-in-law Paolo walks into her home­stead with a group of Dutch tourists. Will she and her friend Pendo be able to make some money and buy their fam­i­lies a meal?

This 20-minute single-shot ethno­graph­ic doc­u­men­tary allows the viewer an inti­mate real-time expe­ri­ence of the nego­ti­a­tions taking place between sev­er­al Maasai ladies, two Maasai guides and a family of Dutch tourists, who meet each other in the con­text of a local­ly owned cul­tur­al tourism ini­tia­tive. The rough camera move­ments give the feel­ing of ‘being there’ as anoth­er tourist, who is observ­ing through the camera’s eye. How­ev­er, this is a priv­i­leged view with access to all four lan­guages spoken, giving insight in the aston­ish­ing accu­ra­cy with which people from com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent worlds are able to read each other’s inten­tions, but also how they at the same time do not under­stand each other at all.

While the Maasai ladies try to sell some of their beaded jew­el­ry, the tourists are busy shoot­ing the images they have envi­sioned bring­ing home. The mis­trust and embar­rass­ment become increas­ing­ly tan­gi­ble on both sides, even though the good inten­tions, polite­ness and empa­thy never com­plete­ly dis­ap­pear. When Elia­mani turns around to look straight into the filmmaker’s camera, com­plain­ing about being filmed too much, the film­mak­er and thus the viewer are con­front­ed as part of the ‘prob­lem’ of cul­tur­al tourism as well. How­ev­er, the film also shows how final­ly both sides are not simply occu­pied with obtain­ing their mate­r­i­al desires: Con­cerns about inflat­ed prices and what kind of pic­tures are taken flow from the impor­tance Maasai as well as tourists attach to the per­cep­tion ‘the other’ has of them.