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Subject of new doc Dead Donkeys jailed in Ethiopia on 'terrorism' charge

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas website screengrab

Last year I built the website for a new documentary due to premiere this year about the issue of land-grabbing in Africa. I'd first been introduced to the production team at an remarkable week as part of the Swim Lab, and been struck silent as the director, Joakim Demmer, explained in plain terms how while we are sending billions in aid to countries like Ethiopia, we are also, inadvertently, helping big foreign companies take people's land, throw them off it, and even imprison them if they complain. I still can't quite believe this happening, inadvertently with our help - and so can't wait to see the film which explains the process. At a time where economic migrants are coming from so many countries where the locals livelihoods have been ruined this issue would seem to be one of great relevance to anyone trying to offer a solution to the #migrantcrisis other than 'let them drown' or 'let them come here'.

Anyway, in clips from the film, Pastor Omot Agwa, explains his dreams of creating a safe national park after a million hectares of indigenous land was sold off to investors and the people who've lived there for generations, kicked off. Omot talks about not fearing death as much as fearing torture, but now he's now been imprisoned, facing both his own - and the filmmaker team from WG Films' - worst fears He was arrested while heading to a workshop about food security - he's never, as far as I know, had any link to anything other than peaceful campaigning. But he's now facing charges of terrorism simply because he dissented! How can that word be an acceptable label given to an activist in a country trying to be taken seriously in the world. In my simple understanding, because Ethiopia participates in world trade, whose coffee, music and culture I was drawn to, it is hard to reconcile. Lem Sissy's R4 Homecomings where he described traveling to Addis Ababa were brilliant - I sat in the audience for one rehearsal.

A million hectares of indigenous land has been sold off

But this is someone seemingly standing against a cruelly corrupt sector, driven with bribes, backhands and lots of foreign meddling. I'm very naive about these things, and perhaps I'm missing something, but clearly he shouldn't be in prison for trying to go to a workshop in Kenya. Is Ethiopia part of the wider world or not? He's an important voice in helping us in the west figure out how to treat developing, majority-world countries like Ethiopia better. The only people who can suffer from his free speech are the rich foreign businesses (or perhaps the officials so dependent on their bribes as to not be able to cope without).

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas - TRAILER from WG Film on Vimeo.

Anyway, it's still a bit unclear to me what the best thing is to do other than bring your attention to an Indiegogo fundraising appeal for the families of him and the other defendants. The families are worried for their security, and each have lost their income. Once their safety is ensured I imagine the next priority is to petition the Ethiopian embassies and relevant ministries for the release of Omot, Ashinie, and Jamal but imagine Human Rights Watch and Front Line Defenders, who are working to raise awareness around the case will suggest the best approach.

Meanwhile there's a number of issues that I think are relevant to us (in documentary, human rights or just with a heart):

  • If the subject of your documentary is imprisoned and charged with terrorism, perhaps because they spoke in your film, what should you do? Ideally before this happens.
  • To anyone who cares about human rights, what can we do about campaigners being imprisoned under terrorist charges?
  • And to anyone concerned by the ongoing migration and refugee crisis, or just rising inequality in the world, what are our responsibilities as relatively wealthy westerners, when the (unintended) consequences of globalisation can lead to significant suffering and injustice, to the profit of companies whose tax revenues fund our own services.

Still from Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas

Support the families of Omot, Ashinie and Jamal here:


What city and country was the Church bombed?

Thursday, March 19, 2009
To Whom it May Concern:

Please in what city and country was the Church bombed in the movie The Reader, where 300 Jewish Woman died.  Are the only survivors Ilana and Rose Mather?

Does anyone know if the name of her book is Memoir?  Is this book still in print?

Best Regards,
Sharon Corr


For want of a missile a nation was lost?

dr.strangelove-763806As the film industry makes record box office glorifying 'war porn' in 300, its easy to forget the reality that we as voters have some impact on. Apologies for bringing politics in, but tomorrow in a rushed vote, at least five years sooner than it needs to be taken, the government, supported by the Conservatives, are likely to vote to renew Trident, Britain's nuclear weapon. To quote an email I received tonight "The man who told us he went to war to destroy weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (there were none), at a cost of over 650,000 lives, now says he wants to spend around £50 billion on weapons of mass destruction with the potential to slaughter 40 million people."

"to the prime minister: you are going to be remembered for lots of things. You don't have to be remembered for replacing Trident."
David Blunkett
While two MPs having resigned over the issue and two thirds of government back benchers plan to oppose the vote, David Cameron's continued support for Tony Blair's defence policies looks like it will win. Even Mikhail Gorbachov, who helped end the cold war,  has criticised the plan in a letter to the Times. Asides from the fact that terrorists don't care - and can't be stopped by - the nuclear deterrent; that the best way to persuade countries that they don't need to defend themselves with nukes is to have none that could point at them; or that America supposedly is the only country that can operate Britain's nukes - is the fact that they're housed not anywhere near Westminster, but in a otherwise beautiful loch in Scotland.

For the SNP it's been a major campaigning issue, and with them now for the first time in a leading position in the opinion polls ahead of national elections, one does wonder what happens if the vote is won to renew Trident, and the SNP goes on to win in May. If the success is followed with a win at a referendum on independence, Blair's eagerness to rush an unpopular policy into parliament before he leaves could be quite devestating. It's only from living in Scotland that its become clear just how much resentment there is here to decisions made 400 miles away, not least when it leads to the deaths of locals fighting such a needless war. Tho apparently this week sees the first ever Scot to appear on a Bank of England banknote, so the winds of change are clearly a blowin'.


From Affluenza to planetary collapse and back... what can be done?

earthJust before lunch yesterday I read of a report by the WWF that the number of species on the planet has reduced by 31% in the last 35 years. If the planet continues at its current pace of using natural resource, by 2050 two earths would be needed to meet current demand, with an almost inevitable consequential environmental collapse.

Then while munching away on my fried eggs on toast, I read an article by Oliver James on Affluenza, his name for the 'social virus' whereby wealth, status, appearance, success and the like are perceived as ways of finding happiness.


Vast collection of 9/11 Documentaries online

ground zeroJon H from Finland at has pulled together a remarkable list of 9-11 related documentaries online. All are free to watch and most are created by unfunded groups and individuals. There's a few extreme conspiracy theories but it's is still an impresive collective example of citzen filmmaking.

So much seems to have happened in the five years since Tom ran up the stairs of the Netribution office building to the roof to tell me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Centre. He'd watched the second plane hit live after his brother had called from The Ivy asking what was going on as two of the more powerful people in British news were besieged during their lunch by frantic paging. I meanwhie had just filmed Natty, a politically alert British rapper perform his song 'There's A War Going on Outside'. 


Flatpack Film Festival, Birmingham - Unpacked Day, 19th Jan

Well this festival left me reinvigorated for what a film fest can be. Excuse me if I spiral off into hyperbole, but the programme, the people and style of fest just don't seem to fit in with the way that everything else seems so hyper-defined and funding-box-ticking, it was just programmed really imaginatively and diversely. It felt instinctive and well informed. In short, totally cool.