A film about two immigrants, a shop owner in Lesotho and a Doctor in China.
This 20min film is about how stereotyping and racial profiling reduces our empathy.
Cultural understanding is ever so important in our global village.
WHY I MADE THIS FILM.
It all started with the children in Lesotho calling me “Ma China”, which is the Sesotho word for a Chinese person. I am a white guy being called Chinese, this happened often when I went running around the outskirts of Maseru city. The kids associated my pale skin with Chinese, as they see more Chinese than white people in the area. I found this quite funny, and it sparked my interest in the local Chinese imgrants, as well as the growing presence of China in Africa.
I traveled to China visiting friends who where studying there and met a lot of African students. One guy I met was a young man from Sierra Leone, he was a medical student at the time. I was amazed at his Chinese language skills and then I learnt that he was studying medicine in Mandarin. We were talking and he said that even though he will have the same Doctoral degree as his fellow Chinese students, he would have a much harder time in the workplace being black. This got me thinking and it led me to write a story about a doctor working in China facing problems of racial profiling.
Living in Lesotho I was also aware of the prejudice towards the Chinese immigrants. I thought a film showing two sides of the same coin would be interesting to explore.What fascinated me, was the small traders mainly from Fujian province who set up shops in the rural villages.
I’m in the mountains a lot and almost every shop you go to, even in the most remote villages, are Chinese owned. The sad fact is that there is friction between Basotho and Chinese, and very little assimilation. Little is known about these immigrants, they are targets for theft especially in the urban areas and often harassment by government officials. They have a tough time in Lesotho enduring hardship with stupendous willpower to make their business succeed. They often dislike the environment they find them selves in and live with tension and fear. They close them selves off from the community living in a bubble, which creates a barrier for learning and sharing.
On the other hand the relations between China and Lesotho governments are pretty good, but it’s on the ground where life matters and friction exists.
The trader’s do bring much needed affordable goods especially to the most rural areas of Lesotho, but there could be so much more development from their presence. Such as forming links with local businesses and supply chains.
This can only happen if the tension is somehow diffused. The friendliest interaction I see with the merchant traders is with the children who posses an innocent curiosity. I would love to see immigrants socialising around sports games and cultural events and realising their common humanity.
Our dreams are the same we all want to make a living and live in a peaceful environment. Media can help promote assimilation and question our preconceived ideas and perceptions. More films and dramas that tell immigrants stories will help people open their eyes, and walk towards their biases.
Watch the full film and listen to an interview on the Huffington post.