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Sophie’s Choice: The Tribe (TV Review)

Read my new TV review as part of my Student Rag magazine Sophie’s Choice blog. This week, I reviewed the opening episide of Channel 4’s new documentary series The Tribe, following a tribal family in Ethiopia. Find the article on the Student Rag webitse here or read below:

Sophie’s Choice: The Tribe

Thursday night saw the birth of a new kind of documentary on Channel 4. I am partial to the occasional C4 docu-series like 24 Hours in A&E, One Born Every Minute, The Undateables and First Dates. But this time, the network stepped away from the familiar territory of the UK and took us on a journey to somewhere completely alien as we met the Mukos, a tribal family living in Ethiopia who – although they appear on the surface to be polar opposites of us – actually have some surprising and comical similarities to the average British family.

The Tribe provides a glimpse of a day in the life of the Mukos as they partake in traditions that we would find alien (like the head of the family Ayke Muko negotiating with a nearby family on an arranged marriage between his son and their daughter, which subsequently leads to an argument over how many goats they are willing to trade for her) and paradoxically, partaking in activities that we do too (like watching funny videos, expect when we watch YouTube clips of Sweet Brown, the Mukos watch clips of men making donkey noises).

Since a lot of what we see from countries like Ethiopia are scenes of tragedy and poverty, it was refreshing to get an insight into the everyday lives, traditions and customs of the locals, things that haven’t really been shown to a British audience in this way before.

The highlights from the opening episode of the series included the hilarious, typically grumpy grandpa Ayke Muko squabbling with his two long suffering wives and calling the interviewer a “funny foreigner” for only having one spouse; Ayke asking the interviewer how he could possibly live without goats; and the family arguing over the attempt to arrange a marriage between Ayke’s son Zubo and teenage Damo from the next village.

Of course, the notion of arranged marriage is strange to us and as the families argue over how many goats they can afford to spare in exchange for Damo, a little voice niggles in the back of my mind asking “Is this fair?” As the potential engagement is treated more like a business transaction, I found myself wondering if Zubo and Damo even liked each other and if it was right to essential force them to marry when they are so young and aren’t even allowed to speak to each other. But by the end, I came to learn that while our society may condemn the practise, it is a deeply embedded part of Ethiopian culture and although many of us might not agree with it, learning about it is intriguing nonetheless.

The Tribe signifies a new wave of documentary as Channel 4 explore places and people we have never met before. Interspersed with the drama and everyday struggles of living without electricity and being hours away from a phone charger, the droll humour and uncanny familiarity of the Mukos is side-splitting and heart-warming in equal measure.

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