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13 July 2010 (USA)  »

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"This place is going to be a Garden of Eden someday"
14 July 2014 | by (Cincinnati) – See all my reviews

"Good Fortune" (2009 release; 75 min.) is a documentary that looks at the potential negative side effects of international development aid. As documentary opens, we are confronted/exposed to Kibera, a shantytown in Nairobi, Kenya. The US, in partnership with the Kenyan government, wants to demolish the shantytown and rebuild it. In a separate but parallel story line, we are introduced to the Yala Swamp, in Western Kenya, where an outfit called Dominion Farms, led by an American with too much time and money on his hands, wants to redo the entire area into rice farms. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: first, the documentary does a great job placing you, the view, in the middle of it. I have never been to Kenya and hence it is difficult for me to imagine what day-to-day life is like for people there. The shantytown footage is raw and shocking at times. Second, I don't claim to be an expert on international development and aid, but when you see how strongly the local people are resisting change, you have to wonder at what point you say "fine" and stop imposing your will. Third, the skepticism of the locals towards their own government is huge, and how could they not be, having been lied to time and again by their own politicians.

Bottom line: this documentary raises some pointed issues. At one point, we see the CEO Of Dominion Farms make a comment that "this place is going to be a Garden of Eden someday", and the question is of course "for whom?". This was originally broadcast on the "P.O.V." series on PBS in 2009, and the DVD was released the next year. Definitely worth checking out!

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