Between 1810 and 1940, nearly 35 thousand people were exhibited in world fairs, colonial exhibitions, zoos, freak shows, circuses and reconstructed ethnic villages in Europe, America and Japan. Some 1.5 billion visitors attended these events.
Using previously unpublished archive material this documentary traces how racism was constructed and disseminated in these so-called ‘human zoos’. Children, women and men were displayed like exotic animals, and ordered in a hierarchy of "races." They were cast as ‘Other’ in a manner that served to justify colonialism, and described as ‘savage’. It is a little known and deeply disturbing part of colonial history. Only a handful of the thousands of men and women recruited from the four corners of the Earth ever managed to tell their experiences. This documentary tells the story of six of them: Tambo, an Aboriginal from Australia; Kalina from French Guiana; Ota Benga, a Pygmy from Congo; and Marius Kaloïe, a Kanak from New Caledonia.
This documentary interviews historians and other experts to trace the connection between human zoos and racism.
This piece of human history becomes tangible through the biographies of six victims: Petite Capeline, an aboriginal of Tierra del Fuego; Tambo, an Australian aborigine; Moliko Kalina from French Guiana; Ota Benga, a pygmy from Congo; Jean Thiam, a Wolof from Senegal; and Marius Kaloie from New Caledonia. Their lives are portrayed in the historical context of the rise of the great colonial powers thanks to the work of historians and the help of their descendants. Analysis and commentary by knowledgeable experts also explore the origins of racism at the transition from supposedly scientific racism to everyday racism.