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Afshin Rattansi’s Groundbreaking Documentary on Eritrea

Isolating a Nation

by THOMAS C. MOUNTAIN

Award winning independent producer Afshin Rattansi, a frequent contributor to CounterPUnch, has released the groundbreaking documentary “Eritrea; A Nation In Isolation” on PressTV.

The first authentic documentary on Eritrea since its independence 21 years ago and filmed in Eritrea during the carnival week leading up to Independence Day  Afshin and his crew seemed to have gone everywhere. All unannounced and spontaneous. From secondary school classrooms to the crèche in Eritrea’s largest textile factory. From the first Islamic house of worship built on African shores to the Tank Cemetery, where Eritrea has collected many of the thousands of Ethiopian tanks its fighters destroyed in 30 years of independence warfare.

And especially on the streets to see over 100,000 mainly young people crowding the streets every night marked by an absence of robberies , fights, drunkenness or public disorder. The excitement of the Eritrean youth seemed to have become contagious, catching hold of Afshin’s crew and the usual skepticism they are noted for melted away on seeing for themselves what a nationalistic high everyone was on. A week of partying in the streets by hundreds of thousands and not a firearm in sight speaks for itself one will find.

Having shared the experience first hand, six times now since moving to Eritrea in 2006, I may have become a bit blasé about something so extraordinary but Afshin and his posse’s being here to share this with us rekindled my sense of enthusiasm and every night found me dancing in front of a string of stages set up along Liberation Avenue in the heart of the capital Asmara.

“Eritrea: A Nation In Isolation” captures the spirit of what could arguably be called Africa’s one real success story, with the fastest growing economy and lowest rate of HIV/AIDS infections. And all the while having to fend of a string of armed assaults by the western funded Ethiopia army.

For once a journalist documented the real, on the ground based reality of this little country smack in the middle of the Horn of Africa, now one of the most strategically critical regions in the world. My only regret is that at a short 25 minutes, the scheduled time slot for docs on PressTV, Afshin had to cover to much ground to quickly. Isolating a nation is what the west maybe trying to do, but as Afshin’s contribution to the historic record shows, it isn’t working.

Thomas C. Mountain is the most widely distributed independent journalist in Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain at yahoo dot com.