WEEK 5: What It’s Like Being Black In India

What It's Like Being Black India 5mins 40secs

“What It’s Like Being Black In Africa” is a documentary short created by the BBC as part of their “BBC Pop Up” series. The documentary gives viewers an insight on how Africans who live and have settled in India, maneuver the space as a minority group in the country and the social issues they encounter. According to the film, many Africans move to India in seek of a higher level of education, or for better jobs opportunities. Over 400 years ago, many Africans moved to India, and ever since have played an important role in the country’s development, especially in the military service, though many of their contributions go unnoticed. Many Africans in India are met with racism, which was not surprising to me to learn, since India is known through their cast system, to discriminate against those of a darker complexion. A female subject of the documentary, even mentioned that Indian men often think that female Africans are prostitutes and would heckle them in the streets for sexual favours.

In terms of documentary conventions, at first I got the impression that it was a presenter driven documentary, when BBC representative Christian Parkinson introduced viewers to the space and Benjamin, African living in India. However, as the documentary progresses, we seldom even see Christian, but heard voice over narration from Benjamin and his experience and journey through India, as well as interviews with people he meets along the way and their experiences. I was not particularly fond of this. There were also inter-titles throughout to provide viewers with historical information as well as facts about the subjects presented in the documentary. Personally I believe the documentary would have done fine with simply interviews, inter-titles and narration. If Christian only makes one or two appearances on screen and does not say much, which was the case, the question of why he is on screen in the first place arises, and it took away from the documentary for me. Also, if Christian was the presenter, why wasn’t he the narrator? I was thrown off a bit by this.

While I understand that the documentary was just a short, I would have liked to hear the perspective of an Indian person and their view of African people living in India, as opposed to just the perspective of the Africans.

What I enjoyed was the balance of subjects. Students were interviewed, we saw younger children, we saw elders, we saw modern Africans and those who practiced their tribal culture for a cosmopolitan range of experiences and outlooks on life in their living space.

All in all, I was intrigued by this documentary as I never thought about the other races that possibly reside in India, and it was interesting to learn about how other races and nationalities function in such a space. I also loved the music that was used to accompany the documentary, it was infused with traditional Indian instruments as well as African percussion instruments to show the mix of cultures on display in the documentary.

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