Nieuws - 9 juni 2011

Making a documentary in Ethiopia


Who? Willem Timmers, second year MSc student in Leisure, Tourism and Environment
What? His thesis is a self-made documentary film
Where? A nomadic tribe in Southern Ethiopia
Why? 'A picture speaks a thousand words'

'I absolutely don't want the crowning glory of my MSc education to end up collecting dust on a book shelf. So I decided to do what I had always dreamed of: to make a documentary. People would much rather view a film than plough through endless pages of text. Besides, I feel that it's important to make an innovative and creative contribution to existing scientific research methods. A picture speaks a thousand words, so why don't we make more use of that in science?
'I worked as a tour guide in the past. I brought groups of tourists and others to native African tribes. I was often ashamed of the behaviour of 'my' tourists during such visits. They made no attempts to communicate with the tribes. All they did was to blatantly photograph the tribesmen, as if they were some sort of art object. Since the tribesmen were given money for every photograph taken, they would do anything to be on the photographs. Very often, the photographs had nothing to do with their local cultures. They would hold cow horns above their heads and paint the strangest figures on their faces.
During the making of the documentary, I worked together with fellow student Ilja Kok. We want to show how the life of a tribe can be affected by the coming of tourists. We travelled to the Oma Valley in South Ethiopia to look for the Mursi, the tribe whose wo men wear big disks in their bottom lips. After a week of blending in and convincing the tribal chiefs that the film would also be of value to them, we were given permission to start filming.
Making a documentary involves a lot of work. Many preparations have to be made, and we had completely no experience in filming, editing and directing. After a year of hard work, the film is almost finished. I am very proud of the result. There is still a short thesis to be written about the academic value of film compared to standard methods. Despite the hard work and sleepless nights, I would like to do it all over again. I have never worked with so much passion and enthusiasm on a project before.' - R. Christoph Janzing

More information about the film can be found on