DER Documentary

Bury The Spear!

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by Ivo Strecker and Alula Pankhurst
Color, 72 min, 2004




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Is peace possible? When we look at the history of mankind, questions arise about the inevitability of war and the impossibility of peace. These issues have never been more important to our future than they are in now in our globally-conscious, post-911 world. Made by the anthropologist/filmmaking team of Ivo Strecker and Alula Pankhurst, Bury the Spear! focuses on the 1993 peace-making efforts of the Abore, Borana, Konso, Tsamai, Hamar and Dasanach to end decades of ethnic war in the southern Ethiopian Rift Valley. The title of the film comes from the climactic scenes of elders uttering curses as they use stones to blunt the blades of their spears. The weapons are then carried to a termite mound, broken and placed on the mound for the ants to devour. Then the spears are replaced by tools of peace, like hoes for gardening and whips and sticks for herding. Formerly plagued by endless war, the groups of elders now chant for good fortune to ensure the peace between themselves lasts.

Pankhurst's footage was never made public until last year when he participated in a project organised by Germany's Mainz University. "Initially we were skeptical and wondered what this story would have to tell, because we did not want to come out and say, 'Look these people know how to make peace and others don't know!'," recalled Pankhurst. All of that changed when Strecker, a professor at the university who was also at the 1993 ceremony, decided to visit Arbore again in late 2002 to get a deeper meaning of the peace-making that Pankhurst had filmed. He sought out the articulate and ambitious Grazmach Surra, an elder who had been the main initiator of the peace process. Surra had a premonition of Strecker's visit and was waiting for him. He said, "German son, people are all the same, only the colour is different. The foreigner is white, people like me are black. Being human, how can they spill each other's blood? This disturbs me. Therefore I now want to reach the whole world." Dedicated to alternatives to war and steps to realistically create peace, the film is meant to serve more than the ideal or theory of peace. In fact, the film is currently being used to help break the deadlock in the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Already captivating audiences internationally, Bury the Spear! documents a remarkable moment in the history of Africa and now sets off on its peaceful mission "to reach the whole world."


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
African Studies Association Annual Meeting, Washington DC, 2005
23rd Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Paris, 2004
Premiere, Goethe Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2003
Northeast Anthropological Association Film Festival, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, 2004
Athens International Film & Video Festival, Athens, Ohio, 2004
Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle, 2004
Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, Estonia, 2004
Society for Visual Anthropology/American Anthropological Association Conference, San Francisco, 2004
Zanzibar International Film Festival, Tanzania, 2004
Zimbabwe International Film Festival, 2004
Documentary and Ethnographic Film Festival, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2004
Award of Special Recognition at the Bilan du Film Ethnografique in Paris, 2004
Addis International Film Festival, Ethiopia, 2010


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