Joakim Demmer has been working on his new film, “Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas,” for about seven years. Finally, it’s hitting the big screen, first in the Nordics, and then around the world. This weekend, the film will be featured at the Swedish Human Rights Film Festival. Joakim will be at both screenings in Stockholm and Lund. We sat down to ask him a few questions about it.
Did you assume anything in the beginning of the making of this film that seven years later turned out to be wrong?
What I saw when the idea came was very simple. As food aid was going into the country, food products were being exported out. I was simply curious to see how this could be the case. What I found was that lives were being destroyed. I discovered that the World Bank and other development institutions, financed by tax money, were contributing to these developments in the region. I was ashamed, also ashamed that European and American companies were involved in this. What started as curiosity, soon turned into a real life political thriller.
The Ethiopian government was misusing this multi-billion dollar development aid program for their own agenda. And it was destroying lives.
Talk about working on this film.
About seven years of hard work for the entire team. There were a lot of people doing hard work, risky work, especially for our Ethiopian collaborators. No we are very tense about how the film is going to be perceived when it screens in a number of countries.
Right now, the focus is Sweden, where there is a strong Swedish connection because a Swedish company is involved in the land grabbing in Ethiopia.
750 million poor or indigenous people are threatened around the world by land grabbing. So of course as film makers we wanted to make our contribution and shed light on what’s happening.
Is it true that some of the characters in the film have been imprisoned?
Yes. One of the main characters in the film had to flee the country. Another one was in jail for about 1.5 years. He’s now out on bail. He was imprisoned for speaking out about the rights of the indigenous people in the Gambela region, which is in the southwest of Ethiopia.
How has the Ethiopian community in Sweden reacted to the film?
We’ve only had a few pre-screenings. It’s been emotional for them. Some of them have had the experience of being imprisoned and have been directly affected by land grabbing.
Now we are constantly being contacted by the large Ethiopian diaspora in the United States who are interested in the film and the campaign.