The Boy From Geita has some fascinating subjects but absolutely no idea how to present them. Is it a story about Adam Robert, a Tanzanian boy born with albinism who was attacked by someone looking to sell his limbs to a witch doctor? Is it a story about the threat of dismemberment and death all Tanzanians with albinism live under, in the region with the highest prevalence of the condition in the world? Is it a story about Peter Ash, a white Canadian born with albinism who hears Adam’s story and founds an organization in Tanzania to combat the stigma and ignorance surrounding the condition?
Director Vic Sarin doesn’t seem to know, jumping from one story line to another without offering any perspective. We have no idea how long Adam spends in the hospital in Canada, undergoing and recovering from the complicated surgeries needed to repair and replace his fingers; he speaks so little (and so quietly, thanks to the muddy sound) that it’s never clear how much he understands about what is happening to him.
His brother Semu, also born with albinism, spends the entire film at a protective institution for Tanzanians with the condition, worrying about Adam and wondering when he will come back. Sarin never clarifies how much Semu knows about what is happening to his brother. Adam’s eventual homecoming is played as a grossly manipulative “surprise” for Semu. Wouldn’t seeing the two brothers reunite after a tragedy be affecting enough, without an elaborate reveal?
The grave danger facing Adam, Semu, and their fellow Tanzanians with albinism is real (and the country’s upcoming elections have dramatically increased it). Their story deserves to be told; The Boy From Geita just bungles it.
The Boy From Geita
Directed by Vic Sarin
Opens October 16, Anthology Film Archives
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 13, 2015