Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Enjoy Poverty – Renzo Martens

with 6 comments

A man goes into the Congo and makes a documentary that attacks aid organisations, photojournalists, and politicians for making money out of the suffering of the poor. What’s hard to chew is that he intentionally uses the poor to make this point. The eventually culminates in Martens getting a village to construct his ‘Enjoy Poverty’ neon light display, so he can video tape the event for his documentary. Making your skin crawl yet?

It’s uncomfortable viewing to say the least, but everytime I watch Martens’ Episode III: Enjoy Poverty feel that there is little else out there that is challenging the genre of reportage in this way.

Written by Max Colson

February 4, 2011 at 10:14 am

6 Responses

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  1. if this is supposed to attack aid organisations – i’m sorry, it doesn’t. unless it’s an allegory to yet another white man’s “project” in africa, to save the poor. then of course it’s brilliant, but i’m afraid, also after watching the interviews with this guy, no intentions of an allegory.

    sorry max, but this “project” really puts me off.

    uta beyer

    February 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm

  2. I’m interested to know which interviews have you seen? Have you seen the full 90 minute film? I would strongly recommend trying to source it if you haven’t.

    I think his film is definitely an allegory of the westerner’s mediation of the third world poor. The problem is, or what he poses as he goes through the process of making the documentary, is that he is completely complicit in the issues that he is actually trying to highlight.

    I think what he’s doing is very interesting for sure…

    Max Colson

    February 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm

  3. I should correct what I wrote in the initial post, because I think the first sentence is a bit confusing, which is my fault.

    The major point that he makes concerning aid, isn’t about attacking aid organisations in general (although he does take a few cheap shots) and certainly isn’t about them making money out of poverty, so my fault on that.

    What he says is more about the flow of aid, and where it goes, ie in his doc he quotes a report which mentions that in some countries 70-80% of the aid given to them flows back in ‘technical assistance’ to the original country that gave it.

    What I would also add to what I said is that the problem with taking pot shots at the flow of aid is that one should perhaps offer up a different solution. But he doesn’t. He uses it all to make his art. This is obviously selfish but I think it’s completely intentional and he wants us to know that. He wants us to feel uncomfortable with everything that he’s doing.

    Max Colson

    February 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm

  4. Hi Max. Very interesting video. I’m trying to find the full length documentary in English. Would you have any idea where to get it?


    February 4, 2011 at 10:02 pm

  5. ^^Hi anders, it’s pretty hard to get hold of as its an exhibition video…I’ve got a friend who has a copy which I’m trying to rip but so far haven’t had any luck – think the disc is scratched…

    Will let you know if I manage to…

    Max Colson

    February 5, 2011 at 12:50 am

  6. Coming from inside an aid agency the idea is interesting and pertinent – if a bit muddled by the little of seen. There is a growing consciousness of the issue of who represents who and for what? A debate which needs to go further and deeper inside NGOs.


    February 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

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