A man who once hitchhiked the length of the African continent will make an easier trip tonight – to the stage of Campbell Hall.
Michael Davie will present an illustrated lecture at 8 p.m. titled “Filming on the Edge: Adventures in Guerrilla Documentary Filmmaking.” Davie will show clips from four of his National Geographic films and share stories from his eight years as a filmmaker, including trips to war zones in Kosovo and Liberia.
Davie will share several anecdotes from the making of “Afrika! Cape Town to Cairo,” a series of four half-hour films on his 7 1/2-month hitchhiking journey from South Africa to Egypt. Davie was just over 20 years old when he bought his first video camera and left his homeland of Australia to begin the project.
“I proceeded to get my ass kicked from one end of Africa to another,” he said. “At first I thought it was going to be just a boy’s adventure – whitewater rafting, some rock climbing, maybe get into the local music scenes, a safari, some camping. But everywhere I looked there were these stories: land mine victims, street kids, police brutality, governments trading heroin. They just drew my camera in my direction and set the tone for the kind of stories I’ve been interested in since.”
While visiting the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, Davie crashed a motorcycle and had to wait on the island for a month while his camera was sent in for repairs. He discovered that many of the youth on the island were addicted to low-grade heroin.
“I started sniffing around, talking to drug addicts,” he said. “I was told that government ministers were involved in importing heroin into Zanzibar. It was a dictatorship, so they were addicting people to these drugs, allegedly, so they couldn’t organize and couldn’t resist.”
Davie eventually fled the island when an inside source told him the government was on to his investigation.
“I was three-quarters of the way through shooting the story, and I was told, ‘They know; you’ve got to get off the island before 6 tomorrow morning,” he said. “I was told to sleep on the floor at my hotel so they couldn’t see me through the window.”
Davie said a clip would be shown from his film “Liberia: American Dream?”
“We were there the day Charles Taylor left,” he said. “What happened in the hours and days following his departure – to see a country change directions overnight – it was extraordinary.”
Davie said he would show his Emmy award-winning film, 1999’s “War Child,” in its 25-minute entirety. Set in Albania, the film tells the story of the hundreds of thousands of refugees that poured into that nation after war broke out in Kosovo.
“The theme of the night is really the power the media has to effect positive change – the positive side of journalism,” Davie said. “I met a five-year-old land mine victim in Mozambique who gave me the most important lessons about determination, strength and resilience of anyone I’ve ever met. If we as journalists seek out those voices, you find they’re just as relevant as the voices of the First World policymakers.”