Beyond Freetown: The Moa River Journey
A Documentary for Sierra Leone
First of all, please watch the video above for an introduction to this Sponsume Project!
(If you're having problems loading, try the Youtube version)
Beyond Freetown: The Moa River Journey is a documentary film that will focus on the incoming of new “responsible tourism” to a small post-conflict West African nation, capturing the interactions, exchanges and reflections of those on every side of this encounter.
The filmmaker will adopt an observational but involved approach to recording this landmark recce/recon for an adventure holiday 'expedition' along a 130 mile stretch of the Moa River, engaging with both the international team-members, their Sierra Leonean colleagues and those in the rural communities they encounter. This is the first time a documentary has been made following this route and the expedition itself will be a world first.
Beyond Freetown will not just be about a recce mission for tourism, it will also be about exploring the lives and possibilities of those living in remote parts of an economically impoverished, war-damaged country. Whereas Shooting Freetown looked at those working in creative industries in the capital city, Beyond Freetown takes us to the provinces where the ways of life are very different and encounters with outsiders raise fascinating questions.
In the few weeks preceding our arrival in Freetown, the people of Sierra Leone will have taken to the polls in the national elections. This is a crucial time in the future of the country as yet another peaceful and transparent election here, possibly even another transfer of power between parties, would cement Sierra Leone’s growing reputation as one of the most stable and promising nations in West Africa.
Perhaps a time of great optimism for Sierra Leone, but as the nation’s mineral wealth has resulted in little hope for a better future for a majority of her citizens, could new forms of tourism hold the key to a reversal of fortune? Do the desires and intentions of those from outside match those within the country? How do ordinary Sierra Leoneans perceive this encroaching industry and how much say will they have in how it will develop?
Beyond Freetown will explore these issues and more, while revealing the astonishing natural beauty and diverse rural cultures of a much misunderstood country.
The film will be shot in High Definition on a HVR-V1E camera and will likely be around 30mins in length, although depending on what happens once we are there, it could end up taking an extended form!
Why Should I Support This Film?
To be involved in bringing this film to life would be to help the outside world to see a country at a crucial turning point, to challenge preconceptions about the so called “developing world”, to give a human face and voice to people living in some of the most challenging conditions on earth, but for whom the future could hold more than many might expect.
You can get a privileged involvement in an exciting project at the forefront of global concerns, plus enjoy watching the final film knowing that you were part of it all. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
Who is the Filmmaker?
That would be me! Here is my official blurb:
Kieran Hanson is a documentary film-maker from Lancashire, UK. He recently attained his MA Visual Anthropology from the Granada Centre, University of Manchester. His thesis was an ethnographic film project carried out over the summer and autumn of 2011 in Sierra Leone, West Africa. This produced the short documentary Shooting Freetown, plus a number of collaborative video pieces.
Shooting Freetown recently won Best Film in the Student Short Documentary category at the Manchester Film Festival, has been nominated for the One World Media Awards 2012 and is currently showing at festivals around the world.
Kieran is based in Manchester working as a filmmaker, currently developing collaborative projects with local musicians from the West African diaspora and planning future work in Sierra Leone.
As someone trained in ethnographic documentary, I approach the people and themes in my films with an anthropological sensitivity, aiming to explore areas others may take for granted. I favour the development of strong bonds of trust and respect with those on the other side of the camera, even experimenting in collaborative approaches to the construction of my films, delving into interior imagined realities as well as the surface reality seen through observation.
As an example of my work, here is my previous documentary in Sierra Leone, Shooting Freetown
How Did The Project Come About?
Quite simple really… I was approached by Thomas Armitt from West Africa Discovery (who seemed to have been impressed by Shooting Freetown!) to join him and a few others as he carried out a recce for the adventure holiday company Secret Compass. He would be arranging the transport and itinerary for the journey and providing I was able to get myself to Freetown with a camera, I could join them to record their journey.
I decided this would be a unique opportunity to witness first hand this interesting new tourism phenomenon, as well as meeting and hearing from Sierra Leoneans from small rural communities, which I regretted missing the chance to do on previous visits to the country.
Here’s some more information about what Thomas is aiming to achieve with West Africa Discovery:
Founded in 2009, West Africa Discovery is a non-profit web portal born from the realisation that West African based small/medium tourism providers lack the opportunities to share their activities with the world.
The portal raises awareness towards West Africa as a travel destination and promotes a more responsible and sustainable form of tourism.
We have carefully picked travel ideas that offer unique, authentic and unforgettable experiences and allow the traveller to discover a lesser known part of Africa in a meaningful way.
Here’s the official description of the expedition from Secret Compass:
Facilitated by West Africa Discovery, and organized by Secret Compass, this is a journey of discovery transecting southern Sierra Leone along the Mao River from the border with Guinea to the sea. We will travel through different ecosystems and people giving us a unique insight into this fascinating country which is back on it's feet after a decade of conflict.
We follow the course of the Moa River on foot and by canoe. This will give us a unique insight into the diverse rural culture in Sierra Leone, as we pass through remote villages and small towns. We will also journey through Rainforest with abundant wildlife, gallery forests broken by farmlands, woodland savannah and mangrove vegetation.
Here is the promo video by Secret Compass for the expedition in January 2013.
...and some more info on Secret Compass and what they do.
Who will be on the Team?
As far as filmmaking goes, I will be carrying out all of the roles - director, camera, sound, editing. I have done this once before in Sierra Leone with Shooting Freetown so I feel more than comfortable reprising this!
As for the others I will be joining on this Recce, the list (so far) is:
Thomas Armitt (You met him in the video!) founder and owner of West Africa Discovery, Thomas will be leading the Recce. Find out more about WAD here: http://www.westafricadiscovery.co.uk/
Mark Louw will be in Sierra Leone volunteering at Tribewanted and is interested in permaculture and agriculture techniques in rural communities.
Umaru Woody is the Product development manager at the National Tourism Board of Sierra Leone. He has been instrumental in organising the information for the expedition, and will be interested in community engagement and sustainable tourism development possibilities.
Kat Cacavas is a dietician and has worked in Sierra Leone with Orphund and Tribewanted. She is interested in the dietary habits of rural communities in Eastern Sierra Leone.
Kenneth Gbengba will be the guide for the recce and the expedition. He has 25 years of experience conducting tours in remote regions of West Africa. Specialized in Birdwatching, his wealth of knowledge will be invaluable to the recce.
Timetable: Film Project Itinerary
December 3rd 2012: Fly out from London Gatwick to Freetown Lungi
December 3rd-9th: Preliminary shooting in Freetown and Western Peninsula with key characters, a visit to Tribewanted at John Obey village to screen Shooting Freetown and learn about their responsible tourism project, plus shooting of featurette Shooting Freetown: One Year On
December 10th: Set off on recce in provinces to the east/south of Sierra Leone, begin shooting main section of documentary in village communities and Moa River trail
December 23rd: Recce completed, team returns from provinces to Freetown
December 24th: Fly back from Freetown Lungi to London Gatwick
December 25th-Jan 2nd: Upload video-blog #1 and enjoy some festive cheer with family and friends!
January 2013: Begin shot-list/transcription, capturing tapes, paper edit and rough cut
February 2013: Upload video-blog #2, editing up to final cut
Spring 2013: Uploading exclusive online content, arrange first screenings, submit to festivals
Budget... what will the funds go towards?
Transport: As I am carrying out this project independently, all costs need to be covered by my own means. The primary cost of this project is the airfare. Getting to Sierra Leone is an expensive business - once you're there, you can get by on very little (Which will come from my own pocket). I will be flying from London Gatwick to Freetown Lungi and the cost of the flights is between £769-£829.
Return travel from Manchester to Gatwick Airport will be at least £50.
The Visa, immunisations and anti-malarials will come to at least £100.
Equipment: I am very grateful to have been given the offer to borrow a full professional camera kit for this project, which substantially reduces the costs of making the film.
Extra costs includes tapes (approx. £45) an LED light (£20) extra batteries (£10).
The small amount left allows for insurance for myself and the equipment as well as accounting for things that might go wrong (and seeing as most of the filming is taking place in remote tropical forests this could well happen!).
This film will be dedicated to the memory of Adama Kpana, wife of Alfred "KP" Kpana, who many of you may remember from Shooting Freetown. She passed away in January 2012 from birthing complications. Adama appears briefly in the film, speaking proudly about her daughter, FS. She was a loving mother and wife and her tragic passing highlights the major risks faced by pregnant women in Sierra Leone.
If the project funding total raises above the target, I will be donating money towards maternal health charities in Sierra Leone.
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/beyondfreetown
West Africa Discovery: http://www.westafricadiscovery.co.uk/
Secret Compass: http://www.secretcompass.com/
Visit Sierra Leone: http://www.visitsierraleone.org/
Brand Sierra Leone: http://brandsierraleone.tv/
So, the crowdfunding project has come to an end!
As promised, I've given everyone who donated £10 or more an indivdual note of thanks on my social media sites.
If you havent already, please do head over to the Beyond Freetown Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/beyondfreetown
Or Twitter (You'll have to scroll down a bit to find them!): www.twitter.com/shootingftown
As we get into the final few days of the Beyond Freetown: The Moa River Journey crowdfunding campaign, as a special treat I thought I would share with you a short clip of unseen 'bonus footage' I edited together shortly after finishing Shooting Freetown...
A (very) short film created from the material shot during the Shooting Freetown project, Summer 2011.
Up until independence in 1961, for centuries Sierra Leone's history was one marked by slavery and British colonial rule.
The Rebel War of the 1990s and its immediate aftermath left people with little time to reflect on this history, but amidst the hustle & bustle of Freetown in 2011, evidence of this past can be found all over the city.
British flags remain, now the marker of quality imported goods. Public artwork remembers the pain of the ancestors and the ceremonial costumes of old, traditions which still survive in the provinces.
In King Jimmy Market, once the region's foremost slaving port, the young film-makers of WeOwnTV finish shooting a historical drama called 'They Resisted', in the very same tunnels slaves were once taken down to be boarded on ships to the New World.
A visitor from the land of the former oppressor finds the camera turned on him and old roles being reversed... Additional camera work by Arthur Pratt
Feature on Cultural Collage with Geli Berg, on Manchester community radio station ALL FM 04/11/12
Here are a few videos and links that connect to some of the places and themes we will be exploring in 'Beyond Freetown', giving an idea of the existing media reporting concerning tourism in Sierra Leone and natural environment of the region containing the Moa River.
Sierra Leone was once a fairly popular tourism destination with Europeans, the pristine tropical beaches of the Western Peninsula proving a particular draw. Since the Civil War in the 1990s, the number of tourists fell to practically none.
Here is a clip produced by the UK's Department For International Development (DFID) with the Sierra Leonean tourist board. Several such promotional films have been produced since the mid '00s attempting to convince the outside world Sierra Leone is a good place to visit and invest in. The image presented is certainly overly positive, considering the ongoing problems concerning infrastructure and transport. The clips also rely on familiar Western stereotypes of "Happy Africans", as opposed to the "Tragic Africans" associated with the war. We assured the country is safe by a white foreigner.
This next clip opens with a map of the region we will be spending most of our time in. The Moa River can be clearly seen set inside the Gola Forest, with Tiwai Island Nature Reserve located in the river (a place we will also be visiting). This is from a wildlife documentary by TV biologist Dr. Sanjayan, himself a Sierra Leonean, called 'Wildlife In A Warzone'. The war had been over for 5 years when this film was aired.
Here is a short piece from the Guardian last week about the Forest Rangers of the Gola National Park (To the immediate south of the Moa River). The reporter seems to care mostly what the rangers think of him, but gives us a glimpse into the work being carried out in conservation in this part of the country.
Finally, photographer and adventurer Brandan Van Son , who has recently spent some time travelling in Sierra Leone, offers some novel perspectives on ways he thinks Sierra Leone could cash in on the tourism market.
Click here and 'Like' the page to be kept up to date via Facebook!