Grasshopper Republic: Review

Grasshopper Republic: Review

While most documentaries feature talking head-style interviews that give viewers insight on past events, there are others that just let the camera roll and let the editing do all the talking — films like Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka. In Grasshopper Republic, filmmakers just let the events of an annual grasshopper harvest unfold with no narration, no talking heads, and nearly no narrative.

Directed by Daniel McCabe (This is Congo), Grasshopper Republic follows the mating patterns of grasshoppers in Uganda, while people in the small village of Bundibugyo build clever contraptions to harvest the millions upon millions of these insects to sell to open-air markets in the big city of Kampala — more than six hours away.

Although the premise is simple enough, McCabe takes a “fly on the wall” approach to capturing day-to-day life in the lead up to the massive harvest. Since there’s no narration or talking heads describing what’s going on, you, as a member of the audience, have to piece things together yourself, as if you’re one of the villagers piecing together scraps from a junkyard to create a makeshift streetlight to attract grasshoppers.

Nearly every piece of this film, we witness the villagers creating one set of tools to create a bigger set of tools and so on and so on until we, as the audience, understand what’s going on. The villagers have to repair a generator to power repurposed light bulbs to attract grasshoppers into metal chutes, so they can slide into empty metal drums. The contractions are, literally, put together with shoestring and wire, but the end result is remarkably efficient and quick.

However, Grasshopper Republic may not be for everyone. The film has a slow, but deliberate pace that makes understanding the people of Bundibugyo worthwhile and more relatable — especially for Western audiences. While some people might see poverty and malaise, others will see ingenuity and persistence. Bundibugyo has a valuable resource that Kampala will pay handsomely to acquire. It’s a clear example of using your smarts to make some money for the people you take care of and love. What can be more Western than that?

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Rudie Obias lives in Brooklyn, New York. He’s a writer and editor who is interested in cinema, pop culture, music, NBA basketball, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at IGN, Fandom, TV Guide, Metacritic, Yahoo!, Battleship Pretension, Mashable, Mental Floss, and of course, BRWC.


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