19 February 2012
500 Years Later: Critical Documentary Review
500 years later is a film that explores the struggles that Africans are going through in an effort to attain basic freedom. Owen Alik Shahadah is the creative, pragmatic, and thorough film maker of this film. The film was created in 2005 in five continents and it runs for 1 hour 48 minutes. Production was made in the Codeblack TV studio (Shahadah 2005).
Shahadah’s work is impressive since he addresses a very sensitive issue that is rarely discussed. Disparity and injustice are two aspects that come out in the film. These vices are happening in our societies and there is no way that they can be overlooked.
The viewers’ attention is captured through the presentation of the disparities that are there between the black and the white people. white people are still seen as superior beings and black people continue to suffer in mystery. 500 years on, Africans have not yet gained their rightful place in the global society. Africans are aware of their oppression but they continue to suffer in silence. The film challenges the viewers’ perception about the world we live in, sovereignty is yet to be attained for black people. The idea of freedom is given a new meaning; to be free means to appreciate own culture and be in a position to make practical decisions without interference.
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The scenes that bring out the disparities between the white and black communities add to the zest of the film. They support the theme of the film. The disparities are very evident that it is impossible to ignore them. The scenes where black people express their views on the oppression are also noteworthy. They express it with such pain and disgust that it challenges the viewers’ emotions. However, the scenes where black people smile while giving their points of view does not add to the overall quality. The film seeks to present a sad issue hence there is nothing to smile about.
The two lines of discourse that are most memorable are: One African man states, “you can’t pay me back for that missed opportunity.” Another man states, “it is foolish to let your oppressor to tell you that you should forget about the oppression that they imposed on you.” I think these are two of the most memorable speeches from the film. These statements prove that whatever happens, the Africans can never forget about what they have been going through. These statements are memorable because they present a firsthand account of what the Africans are undergoing. It presents their fears and attitude towards oppression and their oppressors.
Shahadah seeks to persuade African children and leaders to work harder if they hope to attain a sustainable livelihood. His idea is practical since it can help in solving the problem. He exposes the history of the violence many Africans faced and the pain of being forced to leave their native land. Africans are associated with all the bad things. No one really cares about the suffering population. Among the harsh realities that face the African population are; crime, drugs and substance abuse, diseases such as HIV/AIDS, poor quality education, inadequacy, low productivity, poverty, frauds, ill health, and underdevelopment (Shahadah 2005).
People of African descent have to live under these conditions and life is never easy for them. They are required to work harder for survival. They are treated with suspicion and no employer wants to hire them.
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It is apparent that 500 years later, Africans are still striving to acquire their freedom. Although, they are presumed to be free. They are still in slavery and colonization. The film does not stereotype the Africans; rather, it exposes truths about the experiences they have been undergoing. The filmmaker is honest in presenting the theme and he does not exaggerate any event. The film has been made to expose the plight of the black people in the modern day society. It seeks to challenge the audiences’ way of thinking about the true meaning of freedom.
The film presents interviews with notable persons such as Dr. Mualana Karega, a cultural activist, Andrew Muhammad, a history author, Dr. Francis Wesling, a renowned writer, and Dr. Mofeti K. Asante (Shahadah 2005).
The interviews are a good idea, since they present fast hand information from experienced individuals. These individuals discuss their ideas about racial inequality and its degree. Their responses prove that indeed, Africans are not as free as perceived. The harsh realities of life are always making their life hard; they have never received the same kind of treatment as the people of color. It is an outstanding piece of art that provides factual information and at the same time allows people to air their views through interviews. It is a film that seeks to motivate those who are still struggling with harsh realities of life. It is a commendable source of hope and inspiration for the future generations.
The film seeks to pass a message of hope to those who still struggling with the storm that will be over soon. It encourages the Africans to work harder so that they can become independent. It is educational since it tells the history of the black people and their experiences. The realistic solutions provided to the blacks are a focal point. This seeks to empower them for a better tomorrow. The film also enlightens Africans by explaining to them that what they regard as freedom is not really ideal. They are still under slavery and neo-colonialism. It also tells other Africans who have not experienced the ordeal about what their brothers and sisters go through so that they can empathize. The message of unfairness and racial discrimination form the basis of issues facing the Africans. The film passes an important message to the whole world; Black people also have a right to be treated with respect.
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The film exposes the viewer to important social, political, and moral issues that are linked to the history of black people. The white people are described as oppressors who are responsible for the lagging behind of the black people. Africans complain that however much the white man apologizes; there is no way the lost opportunities can be repaid.
The film presents the current state of whites and that of Africans. The former seem to be doing very well in terms of development. Black people are still struggling to attain development and freedom. The white man is still in charge and most importantly; he seems to make vital decisions even the ones that involve the black people. The view should be aware of the disparities that exist in the society even if black people are presumed to be free.
It is very important for any black person to view this film. This film opens the door to the reality in our society. It makes the black people to be aware of their history hence it makes a connection between the present and the past; this is especially important for young people. Black people who are still bitter about the problems are advised against viewing this film. It can open up fresh wounds and this can lead to resentment (Shahadah 2005).
The society we live in has undergone through painful transitions some of which are not worthy mentioning.
The three main messages of this film are;
1. Africans are still deprived of their freedom 500 years down the line.
2. Africans are associated with many social evils and they are seen as inferiors.
3. There is need to empower Africans if sustainable living conditions are to be attained; they need to work harder.
It is a shocking revelation to realize that 500 years later, the Africans have not gained full freedom. They are associated with all the evil things in our societies. They are still suffering in silent and the white man continues to exploit them. This leads to the disparities in our societies. Personally, I believe that this is a saddening issue and it is evident that no serious efforts have been taken to deal with. I believe that freedom needs to be granted to Africans fully if we are to claim to be living in a free world. It is time that Africans arise and say enough is enough.
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Shahadah, O. A. (2005).
500 year later. Watched from http://www.hulu.com/watch/93209/500-years-later, on 10th January, 2012.