San Francisco International Film Festival @ BAM/PFA
South Sudan may have declared its independence in 2011, but that hasn’t kept outside forces from staking their claims in the world’s newest country. A Chinese oil company is exploiting the natural resources, sapping 300,000 barrels a day from the ground and contaminating the equally precious drinking water in the process. Meanwhile, American missionaries are exerting their religious influence, offering education in exchange for compliance with their notions of propriety. Having liberated themselves from the devil they knew—Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, charged with genocide in Darfur—these embattled people now find themselves confronted by a new breed of predatory adversary that’s eager to reap financial gains while turning a blind eye to the human cost of neocolonialism. An uncompromising documentarian, Hubert Sauper collected a much-deserved Special Jury Prize for “Cinematic Bravery” at January’s Sundance Film Festival. Crossing South Sudan in an aircraft he constructed himself, Sauper captures staggering images of the fledgling nation while simultaneously achieving a remarkable intimacy with its people. While on the ground in this unstable region, he poses the direct, difficult questions that need to be asked and frequently receives harrowing answers. His previous film, Darwin’s Nightmare (2004), earned him death threats. The unflinching We Come as Friends should prove no less incendiary.
• Photographed by Sauper, Barney Broomfield. (110 mins)