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Discovering Benin, West Africa - Movie Review

Guest Author - Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu

Let me just start off by saying this is an excellent DVD. In 2004, Chris Starace and his wife Cara traveled to Benin to revisit the country Chris served in as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. Chris doesn't gunk up his documentary with incessant commentary, but rather allows the viewer to quietly watch the Beninese people live their lives. That's not to say there aren't explanations of various things. Chris does a good job explaining how people gather their water, why the kids follow you around everywhere, and other aspects of life in Benin.

What can you expect in this documentary? Here's a quick run down of the contents:

Discovering Benin West Africa ©Chris Starace 2004Episode 1 - Bonne Arrivée: (30 mins)
  • See Chris & his wife Cara greeted by the village he lived in while he was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer
  • 'Sauce' being prepared
  • Children singing & dancing
  • The Real Congo Line


  • Episode 2 - Life in Allada (35 mins)
  • Chris's house when he was a PCV
  • How water is gathered and sold
  • Voodoo alters and fetishes
  • Chris and his wife visit a market - lots of footage and explanations. See clothing, food, goods, and voodoo fetishes being sold


  • Children Dancing ©Chris Starace 2004Episode 3 - Business in Benin (30 mins)
  • Tour of a pineapple drying factory and pineapple field
  • A shoe repair workshop with explanations of how apprenticeship works in Benin
  • Jean's sculpture workshop & his house under construction
  • A seamstress's workshop and middle class home
  • Arthur's cabinet and furniture workshop


  • Episode 4 - Voodoo (60 mins)
  • King of Allada and his royal palace
  • Tour of the village of Agongblame - the setting for the Gambara voodoo ceremony
  • Gambara Voodoo Ceremony which consists of offerings, drumming, dancing, and dancers falling into trances
  • A Fah reading - similar to a tarot card reading
  • Ja Voodoo cult chicken sacrifice ceremony


  • Ganvié ©Chris Starace 2004Episode 5 - Tourism Beninese Style (35 mins)
  • Trip through Ganvié - a village on stilts over a lagoon
  • Tour of the village of Lisségazoun
  • The slave road in Ouidah where slaves were marched to the beach and put on the slaves ships
  • Traditional fishing boats on the beach of Ouidah
  • Gran Popo - the Beninese beach paradise


  • The first episodes 1, 2 and 5 are great for anyone to watch. Episode 3 did drag a little and probably wouldn't hold the attention of younger children. Episode 4 with the voodoo ceremonies may actually be disturbing for younger children with the women falling into trances and the chicken sacrifice. I do wish there were just a few more explanations during the voodoo ceremony, however I also feel fortunate Chris was able to film the ceremony and allow us to view it.

    The cost of this DVD documentary is $25 and all profits from the documentary go back to the Beninese people in the DVD. You can go to Chris's site Fon is Fun for more information about Discovering Benin, West Africa.

    Chris details how the profits have helped people in Benin with education expenses, medical expenses, mosquito netting, a new roof, and more. You can read his yearly updates here - How the profits from the sale of the DVDs and donations are used.



    This copy of "Discovering Benin West Africa" was purchased by me with my own funds.
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    Content copyright © 2014 by Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu. All rights reserved.
    This content was written by Jeanne Egbosiuba Ukwendu. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Dawn Denton for details.

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