Is Filmanthropy Bad for Africa and For Us?
Filmanthropy, as noted here, is a term coined by Ted Leonsis to describe philanthropists who make films that promote social change. An article in the Sunday New York Times suggests that when made about Africa, such films "...have a strange paralyzing effect."
It recently struck me much of what we do and say about the world's poor is justified by one sentence, spoken by Jesus more than 2,000 years ago: "The poor you will have with you always." It eases our conscience, helps us understand what is required of us, creates a way of being in a world where need constantly reaches out its hand to us. But what do we lose if, as this article suggests, films about Africa provide simply a night of entertainment? If you are a donor who wants to enlist others in a cause you hold dear with new tools such as documentary film, how do you negotiate the thin line between compelling stories and compassion fatigue?