Films: Solar Eclipse

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Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

Czech Republic, 2011, 81 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: African-American, Documentary, Social Issues, Technology/Science
Program: Documentary Films
Language: Czech English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Martin Maracek
Producer: Vit Klusak, Filip Remunda
Editor: Martin Maracek
Screenwriter: Martin Maracek
Cinematographer: Jiri Malek
Principal Cast: Milan Smrz, Tomás Tozicka, Joseph Munamweemba, David Mwansa

Martin Maracek's documentary about the collision of European noblesse oblige and Third World improvisation recalls the high impulses and unavoidable follies of the colonial era in Africa—and the ways that humans can delude themselves in the name of doing good. Maracek has a firm grasp of the absurd.

As the film opens, a pair of government electricians from the Czech Republic, Milan and Tomáš, are returning to the remote Zambian village of Masuku to check up on the solar-panel system they built a few years earlier to bring electric power to the local school, a clinic, and several houses. They find the whole thing in shambles, thanks to the Masukuans' creative tampering. Cables have been cut. Pumps, regulators, and water taps are broken. An entire workshop has vanished. Because of battery overloads, houses are in danger of exploding. “It is the problem of animal in man,” one local resident explains. While the profane Tomáš explodes in frustration and the electricians struggle to repair the damage, they glimpse at least one truth. “We really don't know their social system,” Milan laments. “We can't pretend that we are saviors or messiahs here.”

So much for the glories of cross-cultural aid: what we see in Masuku is a major short circuit. In the attempt to illuminate the “dark continent,” the Czech technicians wind up cursing in the darkness themselves. It might have been more advisable, the film gently suggests, to behold the beauty of the constellations blazing across the African night sky. You know, God's lights.
—BILL GALLO

In cooperation with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado, Bohemian Productions

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