City Paper is not for tourists
“Experiencing your suffering makes me a better person,” artist/provocateur Renzo Martens drily informs starving Congolese laborers in Episode 3—Enjoy Poverty, a brutal, ironic meditation on the causes and meaning of Third World economic exploitation. Less documentarian than aesthetic troublemaker, Martens teaches Congolese to use their destitution as a resource and, self-reflexively, documents his attempts for his own profit. In pursuit of a subtle thesis, Enjoy Poverty strands its auteur in a squirm-worthy scenario: After meeting a plantation owner buying fine-art photographs of his own starving employees, Martens convinces plantation workers that they can make more money documenting their own desperate lives for Western media than they can working the fields. Those without patience for Martens’ high-art pretensions (Martens intends Enjoy Poverty to form a triptych with two other works not screening at Silverdocs—whatever) will still dig his neon Enjoy Poverty installation and his revealing interview with a Médecins Sans Frontières physician who explains why photojournalists can sell photographs of starving Congolese to newspapers but Congolese with cameras can’t get press passes.
At 3:30 p.m. at Round House Theatre; also on Sunday, June 21, at 5:15 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre.