By Nicole Kobie
"It takes a village to raise a child."
The benefits of a strong communal upbringing over a single family unit may be lost to us here in the West. However, the Zimbabwean film Everyone’s Child shows how deeply needed community support is when raising the orphaned children of AIDS victims.
Although it’s a strong movie worth watching, it seems an odd choice for the Afrikadey! festival. As an extremely positive event, Afrikadey! focuses on the musical culture and food tastes of the continent. This film doesn’t just show the negative disease and poverty of Zimbabwean culture. It also reminds viewers that African culture isn’t only bright colours and loud drums. While African art is often overlooked, Everybody’s Child proves African artists are just as capable of creating cinematic art that asks for social change.
The movie begins with death of a woman. She is buried next to her husband, and leaves behind four children. Both parents die of AIDS, though this isn’t immediately obvious. The children’s community and uncle initially ignore them and one assumes it’s for fear of AIDS. The eldest son takes off to the city to find work, but ends up on the streets and eventually, in jail. The eldest daughter struggles by any means possible to keep her younger siblings from starving to death. After a tragic accident, the community finally realizes these children need help, and steps up to the challenge.
The acting is amazing in parts, but sadly dismal in others. The film itself is poor quality and badly scratched and the sound quality is so low it’s hard to discern some conversations. However, the plot is uncomplicated and easy to follow.
It’s a simple story, and the point of the directors is clear, but sometimes too obvious. It shouldn’t take a movie to tell people that orphaned children need adult support.
However, Everybody’s Child doesn’t ask for international help or government assistance. The solution offered by this movie is found in the community, even if the community is poverty-stricken. Maybe the film asks for help in the only place it thinks it can. Salvation doesn’t pour in from international sources, and the local government is too busy saving itself to deal with AIDS and the aftermath of the epidemic.
With that perspective, maybe Everybody’s Child is a worthy choice to play during the Afrikadey! Festival. The culture of a society isn’t just what the clothing the people wear, the music they create or the food they eat, but also how they survive and interact. Either way, Everybody’s Child is an excellent piece of Zimbabwean art, with or without drums.