ViewChange Video of the Week: Burning In the Sun
Editor’s Note: NextBillion is partnering with ViewChange to share stories of enterpreneurship in the developing world. The full-length documentary, Burning in the Sun was directed and produced by Cambria Martlow and Morgan Robinson. Portions of that documentary may be viewed below. Martlow also authored the following blog post, which originally appeared in The Huffington Post and has been republished here with the author’s permission.
Founding a small business is something that is deeply embedded in American and European culture, a topic for which many can relate. But most have never seen this universal kind of effort take place in Africa, traditionally marked out by the media as the land of the starving, the war ravaged and the hopeless. That is what the protagonist in our film sets out to do.
Twenty-six-year-old charmer Daniel Dembélé is equal parts West African and European, and looking to make his mark on the world. Seizing the moment at a crossroads in his life, Daniel decides to return to his homeland in Mali and start a local business building solar panels – the first of its kind in the sun-drenched nation. Daniel’s goal is to electrify the households of rural communities, 99 percent of which live without power. Burning the Sun tells the story of Daniel’s journey growing the budding idea into a viable company and of the business’ impact on Daniel’s first customers in the tiny village of Banko. Taking controversial stances on climate change, poverty, and African self-sufficiency, the film explores what it means to grow up as a man, and what it takes to prosper as a nation.
In our portrayal of Daniel, who undertakes a familiar effort in an unfamiliar environment, we attempt to open the door to what is viewed as possible in Africa, and update western cultural awareness with a profound dose of optimism. For us, Daniel’s work shatters notions of the need for African dependence on outside aid and embraces the view that ultimately it is Africans who will develop Africa in their own way.
Now more than ever before, people around the world have come to see green-collar jobs as an absolute necessity for survival in our rapidly changing economies and environments. Daniel’s daring, charisma and intelligence remind us of the sort of leadership required around the globe that will encourage this level of transformative change. It is important to us for the film to showcase him as an African leader, not only of his country, but as a global trendsetter. So not only do viewers come away with a greater understanding of the kind of development that makes the most sense for Africa, but a sense of profound inspiration that they can take the action they have seen and apply it in their own communities.
Burning in the Sun is often labeled as a film that is ’African’ or ’Environmental’, but our goal in telling this particular story is to desegregate these two topics, and to encourage disparate conversations to join together in dialogue, and start a new discussion on the world stage.