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Orbela's People

Orbela's People
Scene from "Orbela's People" (photo © Percy Adlon)

Filmmakers Percy and Eleonore Adlon enter a world with no waste, no news, and no hurry – where the only desire of nine-year-old Orbela is a school sweater.

“Our experience with the Maasai (meaning the people who speak Maa) was deep, peaceful, and satisfying. But also raw, controversial, and unexpected. You enter a world with no electricity, no running water, no cars.

The homestead consists of a dozen huts, made of wooden sticks, plastered with cow dung, roofed with grass. Very soon you find the eyes of the women, feel their wisdom, their sense of humor, their gentle heart. Excited laughter erupts when you say their names, Napaya, Kelelit, Nalamala.

Orbela’s people are herders. They don’t hunt. They don’t eat wild animals. But also no poultry, no eggs, no vegetables, salad, bread, cheese, pasta. They drink milk (always), they eat beef and goat (occasionally), and some potatoes (the “new lifestyle”).

One man owns everything, the cattle, the women, the warriors, the children. About fifty people. But he is not a ruler. He is roaming the land, sitting with the other elders, short of words, without many needs, keeping the old tradition intact. One of his sons is Orbela. In the Maa language “orbela” means “split”. He wants to go to school. But he needs an operation of his cleft palate. Five hours from his village, in the town of Arusha, he gets what he needs. And he’ll get his school sweater! “


Percy Adlon was born in 1935 in Munich and studied Art, Theater and German Literature at the Ludwigs-Maximilian-University in Munich. After three years as a stage actor, he worked as a narrator and editor of a literature series for radio and television. In 1970, he started his film work for television and made more than 150 documentaries about art and the human condition. His first feature film, Céleste (1981), drew international attention. His film Bagdad Café (Out of Rosenheim,1987) was a great success, winning the Best Film Award in Rio de Janeiro and two Césars. Together with his wife, Eleonore Adlon, he has written and produced numerous films, including: Sugarbaby (1984), Rosalie Goes Shopping (1989), Salmonberries (1991) winner of the Grand Prix des Amériques in Montreal, the TV-movie The Glamorous World of the Adlon Hotel (1997), a series of 22 short films without words, Die Strausskiste (2000), Dog$hit (aka HAWAiiAN GARDENS, 2001), Koenig\'s Sphere (2003), and Orbela\'s People (2007).
Genre Environment/Ecology, Society
Category Documentary
Year of Production 2007
Director Percy Adlon
Screenplay Percy Adlon
Cinematography Percy Adlon
Percy Adlon
Percy Adlon
Percy Adlon
Producer Eleonore Adlon
Production Companies Leora Films/Santa Monica, Pelemele Film/Munich & Santa Monica
Length 116 min
Format color
Original Version
 English
Sound Technology Dolby SR