This is Part 3 in a series of posts from members of the All Angels’ community who participated in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Check out Part 1 for the series overview and Bryan Brown’s opening reflection on the film Blowin’ Up.
Trevor St. John-Gilbert & “Tanzania Transit”
Trevor St. John-Gilbert is a professional actor and part-time staff youth leader here at All Angels’. He attended a screening of “Tanzania Transit” on Monday, April 23.
What was the movie about?
Tanzania Transit is a documentary by Jeroen Van Velzen that depicts life aboard a train in Tanzania. Specifically, we follow three story lines throughout the hour-long documentary. The first depicts a Masaai grandfather and grandson who are traveling back to their village. The second, a woman who is hoping to start a new life. The third, a preacher who is planting churches across Tanzania.
How did you like it?
I really enjoyed the movie. I don’t typically watch documentaries, so this wasn’t a movie I’d have gone out of my way to see. That said, I’m very glad I did. It was fascinating to see the cultural differences between us. Their culture is very religious, and they are much more open to spiritual topics and conversation than Americans. It was surprising for instance to see how the preacher was able to open up conversations with relative ease. The other thing that surprised me was the moment the train runs over a cow. Everyone hops off the train and is celebrating because food has been provided for them. They make a fire and cook it up right there! In America there’s no way a train runs over anything and we’re happy to eat it.
What do you think the filmmakers are saying with this film?
To be honest, I’m not so sure they were trying to say anything with this film. The director was there for a Q and A afterwards and it really seemed that his desire was to tell these people’s stories. It was very much up to you to interpret the stories how you wanted to interpret them. There really seemed to be no bias in the film itself. For instance, the director thought the preacher was very manipulative, but that wasn’t what I thought at all from watching the movie. It was interesting to see that the director’s opinions of people weren’t seeping through. He honestly just shot footage and put it together for us to see, then to draw our own conclusions.
As far as how the movie connects to the world, I think specifically Americans will be appalled at the treatment of women. I think it shows that even though we’ve made progress in equal treatment here in America that there is still so far to go. Hearing a woman’s story of being married off at 14 to a man who she doesn’t know and then essentially being raped just makes you furious.
It’s also a reminder of the gap in wealth. It’s clear and easy to see it when you’re on the outside, for instance when you watch this movie. But it reminded me that it’s harder for me to see when I’m on the subway. How do I treat those with less? Am I caring for the poor and needy and the oppressed?
How should Christians respond to this film?
For me there were a couple things that really hit home. One was the stories of broken people. On the train you saw racism between tribes, you heard stories of sexual harassment and abuse, you witnessed people treating one another in sub-human ways. You also saw pockets of beauty and courage and hope. It’s a reminder that we’re all human, we all have stories, dreams, and desires. We also all struggle with sin and need help, need a Savior. Specifically, it was a reminder to me and a challenge to remain open to what God is asking of me. Seeing people’s humanity, seeing everyone as a person is really tough sometimes but so worth it when you do.
The other was watching this preacher. It was interesting to watch him because basically he would walk up and down the cars praying for people and selling his book. The things he was saying seemed mostly to line up with scripture and Jesus, but you did question his motives at times. He didn’t seem that humble, but I wondered how much of that is a cultural difference. Watching him made me ask myself what are the things that I do that make people wonder if my faith is genuine. It also made me pause and wonder how much time I spend worrying about other people’s faith versus just following Jesus myself.
How was the experience overall?
Overall it was an amazing experience! I so enjoyed going down to Chelsea to see the move at such a nice theatre. It was also and premiere with the director, so it was really cool to hear him talk about the film. It made the whole experience way more real. This was my first time at the Tribeca Film Festival and it definitely left me feeling more connected to New York and to film scene here!