out of Five
Running time: 47
Black Out carries an inspiring and sobering central message, but its failure to do anything original with it, along with its slow pace and lack of spark means the documentary is ultimately a bit of a disappointment.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Eva Weber, Black Out explores the daily (or rather, nightly) struggles of the people of villages near Conakry, Guinea, who experience black outs almost every night. Focusing on the impact it has on the teen inhabitants, Black Out looks at how thousands of children walk for kilometres every night to airports, petrol stations and anywhere else where there might be light so that they can study for their upcoming exams. Speaking to the children affected, as well as their parents and teachers, Black Out also briefly touches on the anger of the Guinea residents towards their selfish leaders and their determination to improve the deprived country’s current situation.
Black Out focuses on an intriguing and rather humbling central subject and to watch the children’s ambition and determination to study, despite the struggle and dangers involved (female teens in particular, are in danger of both rape and physical harm on their late-night long walks back home) is quite moving and inspirational. The music works well, as does Eva Weber’s smooth editing and the stark contrast between the Air France jumbo jets taking off for international flights and the destitute kids huddled nearby for light to study helps to hammer the message home.
Unfortunately, Black Out fails to study its subject in sufficient depth and its slow pace (quite ironic given its incredibly short running time of 47 minutes) prevents the film from really exploring the consequences for the individuals affected by the black outs. Yes, it does meet and talk to a select group of people that are impacted upon and it’s great that Weber chose a variety of people to speak to (children, parents and teachers), but the documentary fails to really communicate the intense struggle of those involved. It also fails to fully communicate how difficult those long nightly walks are to a gratifying degree and as a result of all this, Black Out lacks the spark and originality to make it as engaging as it ought to be.
Black Out focuses on an astonishing and inspiring story, but its failure to explore it in great detail means viewers are ultimately left out in the dark. A disappointing documentary.