The Do Gooders Does Some Good

Monica Obaga of the Talent Press Durban 2014 reviews THE DO GOODERS, a documentary on foreign aid in Palestine, that impresses by showing multiple perspectives, and prioritizing the locals.

Chloe Ruthven's THE DO GOODERS

THE DO GOODERS is an odd couple adventure documentary, set in Palestine around the political world of foreign aid work. Chloe Ruthven is old enough to finally appreciate her grandparents' aid work in Palestine in the 1950s, so she decides make a film about their modern day counterparts. She finds a surprisingly permanent and well funded situation, including life in the foreign aid capital, Ramallah, which could be any city in Europe.

She meets Lubna, a passionate Palestinian activist with a mistrust of foreigners and little time for niceties. What Chloe intended to be a film about those helping Palestine, becomes about the Palestinians themselves.

What is fascinating about this documentary is the angle from which it's told. Chloe chooses to go as a naive storyteller, countering the ubiquitous foreign-expert narrative. Lubna's frustration as a young Palestinian activist with the lack of progress from the aid work adds dimension by challenging some of Chloe's biases.

While there are macropolitical implications around foreign aid in Palestine covered in the film, the most important conversations happen on the micro level. The two young women bring out multiple perspectives in their interviews with aid workers and the locals. This creates room for anyone at any level of familiarity with the occupation and aid work, to paint a mulitifaceted picture of the situation.

The variety of responses, including Palestinians that work in government, foreign aid, local aid and recipients, is a rare and wonderful gift for the audience, because it stops the film from being about foreign aid versus the locals, and instead gives us new insight into what Palestinians think and how they live now, in Palestine, because someone finally bothered to ask!

This road trip film in a high stakes context is enlightening, hilarious and by simply prioritizing the people telling their own story, groundbreaking.