This film is a glorification of the Mofu, a tribe living in the former French colony of Cameroon. PBS describes this program as a study of how the Mofu relate social insects to their own politico-religious beliefs as well as to their systems of kinship and social relations. In fact, the French made program is a celebration of primitive communism.
The basic theme is that a villager's share of an admittedly unique communal village structure is being attacked by termites. Rather than effectively deal with the problem by applying a common commercial (read "evil capitalist") pesticide, a killer ant, the jaglavak is sought. A village shaman is brought in to pray that the ant, which appears only after the onset of the rainy season, may be found.
The villagers are shown as always happy, content with their lives as subsistence farmers. There is not a road to be seen. No electricity. No mechanical or electrical appliances. No running water. No bicycles or automobiles. No stores. Lots of raggedy clothes and children with the protruding bellies indicative of malnutrition.
It is clear from the narrative that the villagers are dependent on a single crop and entirely at the mercy of nature from year to year.
While there is a single scene showing a school in session, everything else celebrates primitivism. Shamans pray to bring rain and, presumably, recovery from illness. A robe clad hereditary chief may or may not listen a village council of elders.
The village children are sent out to find the jaglavak and bring it back to exterminate the termites. In this brief sequence, we are informed that insects make up a part of the local diet, indicating a shortage of protein sources.
There is then a harvest sequence that is heavily reminiscent of the many fine Soviet propaganda films of the 1920s and 30s. The grain is harvested by hand, threshed by hand, processed by hand. No mention is made of the fact that this indicates a purely subsistence level of life. The Soviet films at least featured a tractor or two.
In fact, my reaction was one of shock and sadness. Shock that the billions of US and European foreign aid dollars have made no impact on life in this village. Shock at the level of ignorance. Shock and sadness at the filmmaker's celebration of the primitive communism that provides misery for most with a bit of plenty for those who are "more equal than others".
In all, "Master of the Killer Ants" is propaganda. It is frightening to think that it will probably be shown in public schools as a lesson in "diversity" and furthering the "it takes a village" myth.
Cameroon is not a pleasant place to live. Life is short, nasty and brutish. Cameroon has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Infectious diseases are rife. Almost half the nation lives below the poverty line. A third of the population is entirely illiterate.
You would know none of this from "Master of the Killer Ants". This is propaganda celebrating the politically correct idea that communism and living with nature is just fine. Perhaps, if you think insects should be a primary source of protein, it is.
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