The animated two-minute film starts with two white men in shirts and ties walking through a jungle, with classical string music in the background as the narrator intones, “As we travel through the jungle, we have but one goal in mind: bring the people sustainable development.”
“But we encountered an unexpected challenge,” the narrator continues.
“We discovered that these people, in their own peculiar sort of way, were already sustainable,” says narrator David Mitchell, a British comedian who tells the story of “There You Go,” a short satirical animated film produced and just released by the tribal advocacy group Survival International, that shows how the so-called development of indigenous societies can be destructive.
That development of certain indigenous societies “is robbing tribal people of their land, self-sufficiency and pride and leaving them with nothing” is the central message of “There You Go” according to SI.
The film, based on a book of the same name by writer Oren Ginzburg, “tells the story of how tribal peoples are being destroyed in the name of ‘development. This is still happening today, in India, Ethiopia, Canada and elsewhere with devastating consequences.”
According to Kayla Wieche of SI’s U.S. office the film is mainly aimed at governments.
“Rather than specific NGOs or agencies, this video is targeted toward governments and others who insist that forced development is for tribal peoples’ ‘own good’. A surprising number of governments have made these claims, most notably Ethiopia and Malaysia,” Wieche pointed out.
On the SI webpage devoted to “There You Go” the first example of this toxic development is from Ethiopia, which is one of the largest recipients of aid from the U.S.
“The government of Ethiopia…is forcibly resettling 200,000 self-sufficient tribal people, including Mursi, Kwegu and Bodi, leaving thousands with no land, cattle herds or livelihood. Unable to sustain themselves they say they are now just ‘waiting to die’. The Prime Minister justified this plan, in a country renowned for famine, by claiming it will give the tribes ‘a modern life’.”
“The beneficiaries of this ‘development’ are being arrested, beaten and raped. Their grain stores are being destroyed in an effort to force them to give up their lands and their ways of life. The result will be a humanitarian catastrophe,” according to SI.
On the SI website are comments from tribal people across the world who are experiencing the type of destructive development chronicled in the film including a Dongria Kondh man from India and a Yanomami shaman from Brazil.
“It’s crazy when these outsiders come and teach us development. Is development possible by destroying the environment that provides us food, water and dignity? You have to pay to take a bath, for food, and even to drink water. In our land, we don’t have to buy water like you, and we can eat anywhere for free,” stated Lodu Sikaka of India.
“It’s not that the Yanomami do not want progress, or other things that white people have,” said Davi Yanomami. “They want to be able to choose and not have change thrust upon them, whether they want it or not”
Weiche stated that the response to the film has been very positive and plans are underway to translate it into Spanish, French, German and Italian.