I just discovered Beyond Good Intentions, a short documentary series covering several different topics in the development agenda. Given the lack of quality coverage on the issue, I was surprised to find that the series avoids many of the trappings of the development documentary:
- There is a disturbing lack of distended bellies
- Western aid/NGO workers are, for the most part, not treated as saviours
- Poor people are portrayed as determined and active, not helpless and doe-eyed.
It is well worth a watch. Tori Hogan has gone out of her way to cover a nice range of topics, although there is a slight micro bias to the whole thing. Absent are discussions on larger issues concerning aid effectiveness or less tangible areas such as governance. Even though Hogan manages to insert a healthy dose of skepticism from time to time, there’s a lack of a devil’s advocate for several of the pieces (the randomistas get off a little too easy). There’s also that post-MTV obsession with constant, uplifting music in the background.
Still, quibbles aside, it’s a great first step towards more thoughtful discussion. You can view entire the series on Youtube here. Especially cringy is, during the discussion on faith-based aid in Mozambique, the moment where a missionary admits he will only exchange assistance for guaranteed Christian conversions.