Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hubert Sauper recently descended upon LMU with his latest film, We Come as Friends, a documentary that has the feel of an epic “road movie,” only the horror (and beauty) is real and the vehicle of choice is a tiny self-made, self-piloted canvas and tin aircraft.
Flying from France into the heart of Africa, Sauper crisscrossed the South Sudan between 2010-2012, just as the country was transitioning into an independent state. As he touches down he explores this question: “How do civilizations explain themselves?”
Along the way, he encounters UN Peacekeepers, Chinese oil workers, international businessmen, Sudanese warlords, American evangelists, locals, and even from a distance the activist-actor George Clooney. Through Sauper’s lense, we witness a series of seemingly good deeds – from clothing naked children to building a power plant. The collective representation of these deeds, however, prompted the New York Times critic Manohla Dargis to call the film “a surreal, moving, infuriating and persuasive argument that in South Sudan, there’s nothing post about colonialism.”
We Come as Friends has inspired students and alums alike to think about their approach to documentary filmmaking. “There’s a certain bravery in Hubert’s editing and shooting, in letting things roll to see how things unravel around him,” said Chris Jones (PROD– M.F.A. ’15), the director of Trash, Manufactured, a short film about the dangerous effects of plastic microbeads. Sauper’s process “let’s the viewer rest in the unknowing.”
For his work, Sauper earned the 2015 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematic Bravery. “If you want to talk about the complication of life or human beings, the questions of our time,” Sauper said, “You can only do it when you are exposing yourself to these questions, when you are living fully. You have to go for it.”
We Come as Friends is also the winner of the 2014 Berlinale Peace Film Prize, the 2014 Vienna Film Prize, and was named the 2014 Best Central and Eastern European Documentary Film, among others.
For more information and a trailer of the film, please visit the official website.
For his thoughts on the art of the documentary film, please watch this edited interview Sauper made with SFTV Dean Stephen Ujlaki for LMU film students on August 31, 2015.