Directed by Cambria Matlow
I would like to think that there is something within us, within all of us; a sense of purpose to our lives that ensures we could make the world a better place. A simple idea that suggests that we can contribute something with our lives that will be built upon and learned from to ensure the peace and prosperity of those who will be born into what we leave behind. This kind of idea of course has one direction; forward.
Simple. Or at least it should be.
But for reasons too numerous and too complex to mention there are still places in the world where clean drinking water is scarce, where education is, at best, an opportunity, and electricity to power a single light bulb is a fantasy beyond reach.
Burning in the Sun (2010) is a resonating documentary directed by Cambria Matlow and co-directed and photographed by Morgan Robinson. The film being shown as part of the BOFA Film Festival follows the charismatic and driven Italian/African Daniel Dembele as he works towards an admirable and achievable goal; to bring electricity to his homeland of Mali in West Africa. With the use of solar energy he intends to follow his mother’s legacy ie; to help his people.
From the opening minutes, this film offers no pretence pushing nothing into the faces of the audience - the ‘flip open the book and start reading’ kind of stuff, holding your attention through its shear humanity and admiration of the protagonists who are writing their own future.
In a land so abundant with sunlight, the possibility of renewable energy by way of the sun is incomprehensible as the cost of imported solar panels is unaffordable. But light brings hope. Three words none more evident than within this magnificent film.
Burning in the Sun is centred on the Sun’s energy powering batteries for a few light bulbs to bring hope to the village of Banko, and more importantly, to its classroom. Candid footage plays to a calming score giving us an introduction to life in the village where Daniel will install his recycled solar panels. These few minutes offer something truly magnificent and undeniably genuine - peace, community, unity, and determination.
This is an African community that is real beyond any of the media sensationalism of hunger, despair, and turmoil that we are fed through commercial news media between imported entertainment, suggesting that above all else, rural Africans are helpless. Yes, the African people are faced with adversity, but there are those who are lion-hearted and determined to bring change. This entire film is filled with the most beautiful, genuine, endearing people who despite hardships most of us couldn’t imagine, smile not only with their mouths, but their eyes.
I won’t spoil the statistical outcomes of Daniel Dembele’s impact of determination to bring power to the rural villages of Mali, but the audible sigh within the audience with whom I shared this viewing indicated that it is powerful enough to touch their hearts, and above that, their minds.
And so it should. It really should. Daniel confesses that, at just twenty-six, despite everything he is doing, and everything his mother has done through building wells for his people, he will one day have to escape her shadow; a shadow of protection and innovation that will leave him burning in the sun. A prospect of personal sacrifice that drives him to challenge the plight of his people and stand tall enough to cast a shadow of his own to shelter those who take his lead.