Genre: Travel Documentary
Year Released: 2018
Distributor: The Advise Show
Running Time: 83 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Globe Trekker, Kinshasa Symphony, I Am Not Your Negro
-Unjust Perceptions: Ethiopia is streaming on YouTube on The Advise Show TV’s channel.
-This documentary was crowdfunded on YouCaring and it started out after The Advise Show did a video talking about the Ashenda Festival in Ethiopia.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: Phil wears a Black Panther Party shirt, but also a Killmonger shirt at different parts of the doc. Yes, references to both the political party and the Marvel superhero show up here. Would it be “Ethiopia forever” in this case instead of Wakanda (well, Ethiopia actually exist of the two)?
-The 2018 Ashenda Festival happened in Mekelle, Ethiopia. It’s a city in the Northern part of that country in what’s known as the Tigray Region and has over 310,436 people living there. Also, Mekelle is the 5th largest city in that country.
-Ethiopia is the only African country to never have been colonized.
This was one documentary I had been waiting to see after it had a successful crowdfunding campaign. The name Advise Show should be familiar with some of my readers since I’ve referenced news clips from that channel into some of my reviews. The Advise Show is one independent news source that I respect and became enlightened by over the past year. After hearing about the adventures founder Phillip Scott had, I wanted to see how this documentary would turn out.
Unjust Perceptions: Ethiopia involves Phil and crew flying all the way from Houston to Ethiopia. This was his first time visiting that country, let alone the entire continent of Africa. During Phil’s travels, he goes to various locales in what could be argued as the oldest living country and does his best to learn about the cultures and the people there. He also has a goal to destroy the stereotypes about Africa given all the mainstream propaganda that has permeated for decades in America. Phil sees people such as tour guides, business owners, an African Union employee, Ashenda attendees, and even a Rastafarian from the Caribbean of all people as he’s informed about Ethiopia and realizing how different it is from America.
Some of you may know that I’ve been doing my best to follow what’s happening in Africa currently or even historically (discovering the works have Chiekh Anta Diop certainly helped with the latter), so watching Unjust Perceptions was a needed eye-opener for me to seeing the Africa that’s rarely if ever shown in American mainstream media. The only other time where I reviewed something that had footage from Ethiopia was the documentary Black Gold. Both docs featured scenery from Addis Ababa, and I couldn’t believe how different it was despite having footage from the same city and country. The landscapes were beautiful, there were modern places that could rival many 1st world nations, and there was a sense of peace that certainly caught my attention. I wish I would’ve known about this when I was younger. Even the history that they showed was fascinating. There were castles, luxury hotels, natural landmarks, and a nice museum. That museum in particular had guns under glass that was symbolic of peace after one of their wars. One thing that really stood out in that scene was a picture of an ancient obelisk, rather an ancient LEANING obelisk. Once anyone sees it, they will instantly think of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, that famous tower was ripped off by the Italians when they stole the obelisk in Ethiopia and lied that they came up with the Leaning Tower themselves. Learning about that was mind-blowing and it was the architecture equivalent of watching Kimba the White Lion for the first time since both of those properties were plagiarized by the West into something more popular despite never giving credit to the originators if I were to use that example. It was great learning about the cultural aspects that aren’t taught at schools in America.
There were some good lighthearted moments in this documentary, too. The scenes with the Ashenda goers were very fun. One part involves Phil meeting a bunch of the local women who explain the origin of the festival and how it ties into one of the major fasts observed in both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches. After that, they start singing and dancing to a traditional song. Phil gives them some money, they celebrate and Phil eventually joins in on the dancing which gave me a chuckle. It’s good when people can lighten up while enjoying the culture around them since a bunch of the content is neutral to dead serious at times. The Rastafarian that Phil met also added some levity to the documentary. He shows up twice throughout the film and talks about how he enjoyed moving to Addis Ababa while also mentioning how he handles his businesses in the city in a fun way. Yes, he does make a passing reference to smoking Ganja, but it wasn’t the main point of his talks or when he talked about Ethiopia.
Unjust Perceptions was a unique look into the former Abyssinian country, but there were some shortcomings. I thought the structure of the project could’ve been handled a bit better. There was a brief repeated scene where one of the men talks about the Ashenda festival that should’ve been edited out in post-production. Speaking of the Ashenda festival, there were only brief glimpses of the event and I thought there would’ve been more emphasis given how that event kickstarted the idea for this trip and documentary. The festival this year was a huge one not just because of the attendance, but because it was the first time in over twenty years that Ethiopia opened it’s borders to Eritrea which was very important given both countries making the peace deal earlier this year (there was even a duet with singers from both countries at the event). The biggest flaw would be the subtitling work. I found grammatical errors, typos, and dialogue that said [unintelligible] despite the fact that I understood what was being said even with some of the accents being spoken.
If you’re looking for any documentaries about other countries or looking for positive representation for Africa, then I would strongly recommend Unjust Perceptions: Ethiopia from The Advise Show. The camera work and scenery were very good here. It was informative and succeeded with flying colors in destroying so many stereotypes about the nation. I did with the subtitling work and some of the editing was handled better though. There’s also some talks about race relations that will make some people uncomfortable, but I saw them as necessary truth bombs that really speak about the differences of culture like the historical aspects, how guns are viewed in Ethiopia, and how there’s no cases of police brutality in that country. Definitely check this video out and I hope The Advise Show can make more projects like this.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re a fan of anything from Africa
Subtract 2 points if you want top-notch documentary production all around
Subtract 2-3 points if you’re really uncomfortable about race talks
-Great camera work and cinematography
-Very informative and eye-opening when it comes to Ethiopia
-Destroys African stereotypes
-Hiccups in post-production
-Lack of real Ashenda Festival footage
Final Score: 9/10 points
Content Warning: Unjust Perceptions is one of the more tame documentaries I’ve reviewed. The worst thing from a content standpoint would be the Rastafarian talking about marijuana in passing, but that’s very brief though. There are harder talks about racism, police brutality, colonization, wars, and school shootings when Phil has a conversation with one of the tour guides in Tigray about comparing America to Ethiopia. Those subjects will make people uncomfortable, but they really aren’t offensive.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Unjust Perceptions: Ethiopia is property of The Advise Show. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of The Advise Show.