Over three hours of in-depth coverage of the Beninese culture from an insider's perspective. Produced and edited in 2004 by Chris Starace, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, in Benin from 1995-1997.
Episode 1 - Bonne Arrivée (Approx 29 mins) - I start off by taking you to meet my former Beninese neighbors. I show you how they prepare for an authentic Beninese celebration to celebrate my return to Benin. During the ceremony the children perform many traditional Beninese dances to drumming music.
Episode 2 - Life in Allada ( Approx 35 mins) - You will tour my old Peace Corps house, my neighbor's houses and compound, Solange’s middle class house, the town of Allada and do some shopping in the local market. Learn how children gather and transport water, and see what a bush taxi is like.
Episode 3 - Business in Benin (Approx 30 mins) - Tour a pineapple drying factory and fields, see Angelo's shoe repair workshop, Jean's wood sculpture workshop, and learn about the apprentice system in Benin. Tour Jean's house under construction, visit Solange's seamstress workshop and Arthur's furniture making workshop.
Episode 4 - Voodoo (Approx 58 mins) - Tour the King of Allada's royal palace, meet the king, tour the village of Agongblamé and see the Gambara Voodoo ceremony where women fall into trances. Next I take you to get your Fah read. (Fah is an elaborate and traditional African form of future telling) Finally see the Ja Voodoo ceremony where offerings and a chicken sacrifice are made to the God to ensure his good will towards his initiates.
Episode 5 - Tourism Beninese Style (Approx 33 mins) - Take a boat ride through Ganvié, the village built on stilts over a lagoon. Next we travel by “zemidjan,” motorcycle taxi, through the remote village bush paths to get to lake Ahemé. We cross the lake in a pole propelled pirogue. We then visit the former slave port, Ouidah. I take you on a tour of the slave road visiting the many monuments on the road commemorating the different steps the slaves endured before passing the “Point of No Return” and were put on the slave ships. Finally I show you the quiet beach resort town of Gran-Popo.
Comments from viewers:
--"Just wanted to let you know I received the Benin DVD's yesterday -- and although I had lots of "other stuff" to do last night - I couldn't stop watching and stayed up 'til midnight to see all five episodes! What a wonderful documentary about these beautiful people and their culture. Of course, I loved seeing the Benin Basenji babies, and the other small glimpses of village dogs scattered throughout - but I really also enjoyed the "low key" commentary you provided, with such a personal perspective. Your admiration and respect for the people of Benin came through loud and clear, as did their mutual feelings for you. I can't wait to show parts of the video to my son (who's almost 13). His 7th grade class just finished a unit on slavery -- and those last scenes of the video ("The Point of No Return" are so poignant... I really enjoyed the music on the DVD's also. I will be ordering two more copies. Congratulations on this labor of love - and thank you for sharing it, too!" -Karla Schreiber-
---"I reviewed your latest DVD's. They are a continuation of your humanitarian efforts for the Republic of Benin. It goes without saying that you did a very good job. I recommend that people buy these DVD's, after all the proceeds go back to the people in the footage. Even though I was born in Benin, I feel like a visitor watching them. I think every African American in search of realities of the past should visit those places. Bravo Chris!" -Kaleta-
----"I would like to congratulate you for the work you did on this DVD. To start, the introduction is really good. The topics that you chose are very good also. You can see documentaries on TV such as about Benin, but you don’t see small details like you did. One of the things that I liked the most about your documentary is the way in which you did your documentary is like entering into the daily lives of the people, for example when you were showing the interior of their houses, your sculptor friend’s house under construction and the shoe repairman’s workshop. All of that was fantastic. The fact that you lived there so long permitted you to gain entry to places that most people would not have been able to see. The only similar footage I’ve seen similar to this was when a friend of mine, whom I’ve known a long time, went to China (his family is of Chinese descent). He took video of the houses, his family, and many intimate details that gave me a very good idea how the people live there. That was something that I could not have seen on the Discovery Channel or any other TV show.
I really loved your DVD and it has become one of my most prized DVD’s for all that its making involved and represents. When I was reading your stories on your website I could imagine how the landscape looked, but now I know much better what it’s like there and what the people and houses are like.
I try to imagine what it’s like to live in a place like Benin where the conditions are so different from those that you were used to in the United States. I really admire your ability to have adapted to that. Seeing your DVD should teach us who live in countries where the conditions are so much better than in Benin. Even Mexico has very poor places that could be compared to Benin. I believe we must understand that material objects are not the most important things in our lives, but our modern society has made us think the opposite. The people there are very poor, but nonetheless they seem happy. Again I heartily congratulate you for your documentary. I would like at some point explore such countries as Benin. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to take such a trip but as for now I’ll be happy seeing documentaries by people like you who have the opportunity to go." -Alfredo Ávila (Ciudad Juárez, México)-