ZAM Reporter

16-25.04.2021 | Movies that Matter

Still from 'Paradise Dessert' by Ike Bertels.

This year’s online edition of Movies that Matter features at least four films of interest to our readership.

Paradise Desert

This is a world premiere! Filmmaker Ike Bertels takes us to a prosperous and happy diamond town in the south of Namibia that is forced to think about its future now that the mines are all emptied. Will the remaining inhabitants be able to turn the town around? This is an observational documentary which lets the townspeople and the stunning landscape speak for themselves.

The Namibian desert town Oranjemund was until recently run by the Namdeb Diamond Corporation. Only employees were allowed to live there and Namdeb provided housing, free water and electricity. Now that Namdeb is about to close its mines and leave town altogether, the people of Oranjemund are left with uncertainty. Many are planning to depart.

Desert Paradise is a nicely flowing documentary, which lets the inhabitants tell the stories of their town in conversation amongst themselves. Like supermarket manager Tate, grilling food on the barbecue and telling his daughter and grandson about his early days in Oranjemund. Or the three young women sitting beneath a tree who realise their days of luxury might be over. Everyone remains optimistic, but also critical of the faceless diamond corporation, not taking responsibility for a town whose resources it drained for decades.

Watch the trailer here.


The notorious UK based PR firm Bell Pottinger and its co-founder, unscrupulous spin doctor Tim Bell played an important role in a campaign to whitewash Jacob Zuma’s kleptocratic rule. Bell Pottinger provided more than just advertisements for his clients, not backing down from helping dictators, selling wars and inciting violence. Moral considerations didn’t come into it. ‘I’m no priest’, he said.

He was Margaret Thatcher’s favourite ad-man, and also served Augusto Pinochet: Lord Tim Bell, co-founder of public relations firm Bell Pottinger. ‘Go anywhere, do anything’ was his motto, which led him to work for Syrian president Assad, Belarusian dictator Lukashenko and many, many shady clients in between. He also designed a campaign for deeply corrupt South African president Zuma, inciting racial violence. This became his firm’s downfall, brought on by a coalition of investigative journalists and a determined opposition politician defeating the giant.

Influence, made by Richard Poplak and Diana Neille, is a sometimes terrifying masterclass in the dark art of weaponising communication. It is partly told by chain-smoking Tim Bell, who ducks every responsibility when confronted with the results of his work. Also with a special appearance by Nigel Oakes, founder of Cambridge Analytica’s holding company SCL Group, which helped bring us Brexit and Donald Trump. Now terminally ill, he opens up and gives an honest, very informative lecture on the influence industry.

Watch the trailer here.

De nos frères blessés

Algiers, 1956. During the Algerian War of Independence, Fernand Iveton is arrested at the factory where he works as a lathe operator. He is accused of having planted a bomb. His wife Hélène refuses to abandon Fernand, and does everything she can to save him; an eye-opening true story.

When Fernand and Hélène meet, they are not the most obvious match. Fernand is a communist in heart and soul, and Hélène is Polish, having escaped communist rule to live in France. Fernand lives in Algeria as a pied noir: a French descendant born in Algeria under the French colonial rule. Seeing how the Algerian people are exploited and suppressed, he has joined the Algerian Communist Party.

They still fall madly in love, however, and soon Hélène and her teenage son Jean-Claude come to live with Fernand in Algiers. But as the Algerian War deepens, and Fernand joins the National Liberation Front with its armed resistance tactics, their marriage comes under heavy strain. Especially when Jean-Claude appears to be interested in joining Fernand’s struggle. True story set during the Algerian War (1954-62), a dark chapter in French history. Magnificently acted by Vincent Lacoste and Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread).

Watch the trailer here.

Night of the Kings

When a shy young man arrives at the Ivorian Maca Prison, where the inmates rule, the Boss orders him to become the next ‘Roman’: the storyteller. He soon finds out that it is a matter of life and death. Raw, energetic and brimming with creativity, a viewing experience like nothing else.

A young and timid small-time criminal arrives at Maca Prison, in the middle of the Ivorian forest. It is a world with its own codes and laws. The Dangôro is the supreme master, boss among the prisoners. When he becomes ill and can no longer govern, the rules dictate he must take his own life to make way for his successor. Lord Blackbeard is the ruling Dangôro. And he is ill.

On his first day in prison, the young man receives a title from Blackbeard: ‘Roman’, storyteller. And tonight is the ‘Night of the Roman’, a night of anarchy, when blood must be shed. With all the prisoners assembled, the Roman must tell a story. He chooses the tale of legendary outlaw Zama King. In an exuberant style, director Philippe Lacôte (Run) transports us back and forth from the prison to the story of Zama. Meanwhile, Blackbeard is fighting a covert war to prolong his reign just a little longer. The Roman turns out to be a spectacular storyteller. But his mission becomes one of life and death.

Watch the trailer of this film by Philip Lacôte here.

More information and tickets here.