SIFF 2021: Caterpillars (***)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on April 10, 2021)

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This beautifully photographed documentary focuses on two Aka Pygmies who have set up a makeshift outdoor school for the children of their village as a community service. Bereft of funds for proper school supplies, the men take a hiatus from teaching to travel deep into the surrounding forest to harvest caterpillars, which they can easily turn into a marketable delicacy known as makongo.

Arduous as the harvesting is, that’s the easy part…now they have to hoof it to the big city, where they haggle with shady market vendors and deal with the racial discrimination Pygmies unfortunately face from other Central Africans. Director Elvis Sabin Ngaïbino uses a strictly observational approach, resulting in an immersive and fascinating study of a unique aboriginal culture as they struggle with modernization.

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