Coming to DVD and VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, November 27: BURNING IN THE SUN
Cambria Matlow and Morgan Robinson’s profile of a young man’s efforts to develop a solar panel industry in Mali made its premiere at Santa Barbara in 2010 after a sneak at Rooftop Films in 2009. Its festival stops have included the Southern Circuit Tour, Woods Hole, Lone Star, the NY African Film Festival, a number of environmental fests, and select events in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Egypt.
Matlow and Robinson follow Daniel Dembele, the charismatic and entrepreneurial son of a Malian father and an Italian mother, as he develops a plan to bring development to Mali while generating a profit for himself. Noting that rural communities are without electricity and even larger communities contend with regular periods of blackouts, he enlists the aid of solar power engineers to build a local industry in making and selling solar panels within Mali itself – ingeniously buying “broken” solar cell scraps from larger multinational corporations at a fraction of their normal cost. Dembele, who grew up watching his mother aid in the development of Mali through her NGO which provides wells to villages, sees his own Afriq-Power initiative as his way to continue her legacy but in his own way. Rather than simply giving his fellow countrymen solar power, he will teach them how to make solar cells – developing self-sufficiency rather than charity, and providing a means to combat poverty. The filmmakers have found an appealing main subject in Daniel, whose arguments around development are persuasive – evidenced in the example of the village of Banko, the first to benefit from Afriq-Power’s efforts, bringing electricity to their school and surprising results to their test scores.