Ghosts of Our Forest

65 min. Cinema Guild. 2017. $99.95. ISBN 078151553X.
Gr 9 Up—In 1992, the Batwa people of Uganda were still living a simple hunter-gatherer existence in the forests of that country. Then the government decided to relocate them in order to save a gorilla habitat. (The program obliquely notes that their nomadic existence also infringed on the lands of the non-Batwa.) Suddenly a people whose lives revolved around daily interaction with nature were thrust into the modern world, with no place to go and little help in the transition. Struggling to retain their cultural identity and survive in a new environment, the Batwa Music Club was formed. The performers adapt traditional songs to appeal to, and make their plight known to, a larger audience. Though the film is about music, the larger (and unresolved) message centers on the balance between change and tradition. Archival footage is interspersed with modern video capturing the people as they were and as they are today. This is a fascinating look at a social and cultural issue. Do the Batwas' right to their ancestral home trump gorilla conservation? What about their traditions? Judged by modern standards, some are problematic. Archival footage includes some nudity that reflects the mores of the people at the time. Subtitles are used throughout.
VERDICT This is a fascinating look into a unique society and would lead naturally into stimulating classroom debates. However, the occasional footage of bare-breasted women might make some students uncomfortable, which makes its use in a public school setting problematic and more suitable at a college level.

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