By Kathleen Becker, author of the Bradt Guide to São Tomé & Príncipe
São Tomé & Príncipe, and the world, really, needs more people like young dynamic director and blogger Kris Haamer. While everybody is talking about the crisis, some are minting creative currency from it, a theme that is in a way also reflected in “Tomé”. Reading Kris’ treatment for the film reveals the huge amount of thought and work that’s already gone into this inspirational project, and the empathy born from the director’s background in another small country on the margins.
Living in one of the poorest countries on earth, Santomeans are surrounded by crumbling cocoa plantations from the country’s centuries as a Portuguese colony, and colonialism’s legacy, with the country’s own hierarchic structures as well as a deep aid culture has bred a certain lethargy. Also, young people who want to make something of themselves are faced with real hardship: banks offer prohibitive credit rates to entrepreneurs, painters often struggle to find money for brushes and few can afford to travel to Portugal to develop their skills.
Much of what I see in the film’s treatment chimes with my own experience of São Tomé. The country’s iconic yellow taxis that the film’s protagonist is travelling in were my own means of transport when I was researching my guide (I had no budget so no money for hire cars). They gave me a great insight into Santomeans’ everyday life, and they will provide an excellent vehicle for the progress of the film’s plot.
When I was living in the capital I remember once seeing an offbeat film made by an Austrian director about the travels of a giant breadfruit through the country. I never forgot that film. I also remember São Tomé and Príncipe as place that despite being small is densely packed with riches of all kinds. I know “Tomé” will do fantastic work in bringing a slice of a small West African country with so many exciting facets to a larger audience, in the contemporary visual language of the YouTube generation, as well as inspiring young Santomeans to look beyond the quick oil fix.
I wish Kris all the best for his project and wholeheartedly support his call for funding.
Continue reading the endorsements by the Portuguese novelist Joao Lopes Marques.