|Making David Schickeles Peace Corps Film
by Roger Landrum (Nigeria 196163)
For a biography of David Schickele go to the 2001 Fargo: The Film Festival site.
David Schickele's music
Read Roger Landrum's tribute to David in the Friends of Nigeria newsletter, Winter, 1999
Obituary of David in our "Literary Type" 11/1999
More Peace Corps history:
|A COUPLE OF YEARS AFTER WE SERVED together as PCVs in Nigeria, David Schickele asked me if I would be part of a film project he was proposing to the Peace Corps. The basic concept was to capture the adventure of crossing into another culture and the rewards gained from escaping the cocoon in which Americans living abroad typically enclose themselves. It is an experience common among many PCVs to one degree or another, and for the Peace Corps, this film could be used to recruit the next wave of Volunteers, focusing on its two mandated cross-cultural goals rather than the more commonly publicized development assistance goal. Our personal experiences in Africa had been a revelation to us in numerous ways, and David wanted to make a documentary providing Americans with a new perspective from inside the Volunteers Peace Corps and a different view of Africans.
The Peace Corps was jittery about the proposed project. In 1965, David was unknown, at the beginning of a career as an independent filmmaker and musician. These were still the early years of the Peace Corps, and facing a lot of Congressional skepticism, the agency was sensitive about its image both in Washington and with the American public. This project did not fit the preferred style of hiring a powerful PR firm to shape the Peace Corps message and conducting recruitment campaigns under tight agency control. But as things often happened in those days, Harris Wofford got behind the project and convinced Sargent Shriver to take a chance, despite strong objections from others within the Peace Corps.
At the time, I was a Peace Corps employee, a program officer in the Division of Training, and I soon got a taste of the obstacles David and Harris had overcome. In preparation for our filmmaking partys departure, my passport had to be sent, with Travel Orders, through the General Counsels office for final approval. There they were confiscated and declared lost. It took a confrontational hubbub to pry them out only a short time before the partys scheduled flight to Nigeria. That was just the beginning of our troubles.
Starting with only an idea
|Jagua Nana is available at www.bibliofind.com for prices between $5 and $35.|| The Peace Corps country director, David Elliott, could not have been more helpful. He had a Peace Corps vehicle lined up for us along with the Nigerian driver requested by David a trusted colleague from our Volunteer days. But the Nigerian government had to approve letting an American film crew loose in their country at a time when they were even more sensitive about their image than the Peace Corps was. After fruitless visits to many government offices in Lagos to obtain the proper documents, we finally got another break when we ended up before the Minister of Culture. The Minister turned out to be Cyprian Ekwensi, a famous Nigerian novelist whose most popular work, Jagua Nana, was the story of a celebrated Nigerian prostitute. Minister Ekwensi was not stuck on propaganda. He and David hit it off and we soon had the necessary documents to deal with policemen or other government agents who might spot our film crew at work
The filming crew