A Tree Offering Shade: The Making of the Film “Anaona”

November 8, 2011 | By grantfaint | Community, Company News, Creative
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Grant Faint shooting in Niger (Photo by Shanna Baker via Grant Faint)


When I set out over five years ago to create the film ‘Anaona’, which in Swahili means ‘to believe,’ I wanted to make a different kind of film on Africa. I wanted to celebrate its culture, beauty and wisdom, not concentrate on its heartaches and struggles. I didn’t want to make a sad film — I had spent years covering the melancholy events of the world while I was in television news and I wanted this film to offer a hopeful view.

Making this film was the hardest thing I’ve done in my 37 years traveling the world as a photographer and cameraman. Filming gorillas in Rwanda and shooting in 120 degree heat in Niger were both hard earned sequences. I spent three years traveling throughout nine African countries. When production was done, I had a pile of media cards and videotapes and began the arduous three month process of editing. They say editing is where the story is told, but I feel this story was told in the eloquence of the many great thinkers, cultural leaders and locals who lent their wise words to the quotes in the film. It is also told in the tranquil terrains, the sweeping landscapes and colorful culture captured with my lens.

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Portrait of three young children at the school built with the proceeds from 'Anaona' (Photo by Grant Faint)


This film was a work of passion for me, a chance to celebrate the beauty of the African people and culture and at the same help preserve their greatest asset: their people. Wandering about Africa off and on for three years taught me that Africans believe in the wisdom of their culture and in a brighter future through better education. So, to honor this, my wife and I used the proceeds from the screenings of ‘Anaona’ to build an elementary school for 350 students in Sierra Leone. Just last year in 2010, we added a medical center.

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Medical Center in Sierra Leone built in 2010 with the proceeds from 'Anaona' screenings (Photo by Grant Faint)


Wherever I went I made sure to interview the locals, gaining their everyday wisdom. One day, while in Ethiopia, I had an older man ask me why I was filming a religious event in Addis Ababa. I explained it was a film to help raise money for African education. He told me I was a tree, and that I was offering shade in this way. I tell everyone who comes to see the film that we all make the shade from that tree.

‘Anaona’ is a meditation on the beauty and wisdom of nine African countries and all proceeds go to support education and the medical center in Sierra Leone. A screening of the film will be taking place on Wednesday, November 16 at 7:30pm at Tribeca Cinemas in New York City. More information can be found here.

Come be a part of the shade.

Editor’s Note: Grant Faint is longtime creative contributing photographer to Getty Images

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