The anger simmering under the cool surface of Jean-Marie Teno’s docu “Colonial Misunderstanding” makes the film a substantial analysis of the legacy of the German evangelical Rhenish missionary movement in 19th century Namibia. Key to Teno’s considerable summation is the historical argument that Christian missionaries were used as agents in a colonial land grab in Africa by West European powers — servants of God, in effect, serving Mammon. Cameroon cineaste’s first-person narration nicely personalizes this search for the unvarnished past with experts in Namibia and Germany. Pic deserves a platform at African-themed fests; education value is secure in vid.
Title of Teno’s 1993 pic, “Africa, I Will Fleece You,” could serve well here, as he describes his encounter with contempo members of the Rhenish church in Wuppertal, home to an archive containing hefty evidence of the missionaries’ complicity in subsequent genocidal crimes against humanity. The “misunderstanding” includes Euro Christian ignorance of African tribal religions and exploitation of the tribes’ lack of a concept of private property. Roster of on-camera historians and theologians is remarkable.