Home Page

Directory of Resources

Trip Journals & Photos                   


Webs, Books, Films
Films & Videos
Films and Videos about Sierra Leone and Africa






Directory of  Resources



Book List


Education & Culture


Films & Videos


General & Misc. Sites


Government Sites


Health, Food, & Hunger

History Sites


Map Sites


Main Fact Sites


Natural Resources Sites




Tourism Sites


Travel Journals--OneVillage Partners



(1) Some of these items are directly related to Sierra Leone, some only indirectly.


(2) Items are alphabetized by title.  If a source of availability is not mentioned below, then the video should be available at video-rental stores.


(3) The primary setting of the video--usually a country--is listed in parentheses after each title.





For a list of short documentary videos, see Emory University's "Film, Media, and Video Resources for African Studies,"



Source for Specific Videos and DVDs:


See also Emory University's "Film, Media, and Video Resources for African Studies,"



Radio Interview:


Hear a 9-minute interview from MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) of Dr. Shanee Stepakoff, a clinical psychologist and a leader of the Minneapolis Center for Victims of Torture's team that won an international humanitarian award for its work with war-traumatized refugees in West Africa.  Speaking from her office in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Dr. Stepakoff tells MPR's Steven John how many Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress.


Movies, Videos, and Other Films:

Amistad (Sierra Leone, Atlantic Ocean, & U.S.A.)

Movie Video, 1997.  3 of 4 stars.  155 min.  Historical Drama.  Directed by Steven Spielberg; stars Morgan Freeman and Matthew McConaughey.  

An island off the coast of Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, was the home of the prison holding pen for tens or hundreds of thousands of slaves coming from several different African ports, for transport to the Americas.  This movie details the famous revolt on one of these ships, the Amistad. review: "Steven Spielberg's most simplistic, sanitized history lesson, Amistad, explores the symbolic 1840s trials of 53 West Africans following their bloody rebellion aboard a slave ship....  At its core, Amistad is a traditional courtroom drama, centered by a tired, clichéd narrative: a struggling, idealistic young lawyer...fighting the crooked political system and saving helpless victims...; here, it seems like a naive view of real, complex history."


Beyond the Gates
Movie Video, 2006, 2.5-3.5 stars.  112 min.  Fiction: Historical Drama.  Stars John Hurt and Hugh Dancy.
  (Also known as "Shooting Dogs.") 

A teacher and a Catholic priest in Africa find themselves caught in a heart-wrenching moral dilemma. In 1994, during the Rwandan genocide, the two foreigners must decide if they should stay and try to save as many Tutsis from Hutu killers as they can or if they should stay out of the conflict and flee for their own safety. [The movie is] based on a true story,
minimally fictionalized, about the 1994 destruction of 2,500 Tutsi and Tusti-friendly Hutus who sought safety at the Ecole Technique Officelle in Kigali, Rwanda. They were safe for a while, as long as U.N. peace monitors stuck around. But when the situation got too hot, they left, leaving behind the nonwhite refugees who were, in turn, all slaughtered by machete-mad Tutsis....  It'll put you through the wringer; it's moving and wrenching, and there's barely a happy ending. But the stories — even ones like this that are more about the non-Rwandan Europeans than anything else — need to be documented....  David Belton, who co-wrote the script, was a BBC news cameraman who was at the ETC during the siege and evacuated along with the U.N. forces. So it's the story from his outsider perspective. It was shot on location in Kigali at the ETC, the actual spot where the attack took place. But if you watch the closing credits, you'll see people of who worked on the film as extras or as crew members who were either there or who had lost people (some of them the lone survivors in their families) in the genocide.   --Review by Dave White at


Blood Diamond (USA)--fiction

Movie Video, 2006, 2.5-3.5 stars.  143 min.  Fiction: Historical Drama.  Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Amajou Hansou, and Jennifer Connally.   "Blood diamonds" are diamonds purchased for or with money or armaments by rebels using them in violent conflicts.  Historically, they are a late-20th century phenomenon in countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Congo, and elsewhere, where they have funded perhaps as much as one billion dollars of armaments for rebels who maim and kill recklessly. 

         The movie Blood Diamond is about one such diamond found in Sierra Leone.  The main character, a white man (Leonardo DiCaprio) from a highly dysfunctional South African family, acts as a sort of dark version of Indiana Jones in trying to take it from the Sierra Leonean who has found it, thus enabling himself--and his rich, diamond-company patron to become even more wealthy.

       Nationally, some critics have praised this movie highly, and in fact Leonardo DeCaprio received an Oscar for this acting in this film.  However, other critics have panned it.  This bifurcation has occurred among audiences, too: some are spellbound by the story while others laugh at the violence at inappropriate times.  Part of the problem may be that the violence is so unusual that students think of it as ridiculously overdramatized; another problem may be that the movie has such an historical sweep that watcher may have difficulty understanding or following the broad storyline or may find it boring.  However, once you realize that all the violence depicted actually is underplayed, compared to the real thing--and once you know even a little about the background of African war and/or "blood diamonds"--the movie becomes a powerful and very realistic depiction of an important part of recent history in West Africa.  The movie shows how the trade of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone, West Africa, which produces about 3% of the world's diamonds, contributed substantially to that country's terrible civil war in the 1990s.  The film is set in 1999 and starts with extreme, gruesome violence of the kind that receives "X" ratings in Europe (but only "R" ratings in the U.S.).  It shows, in detail, villagers getting their hands and arms chopped off and young children operating AK-47 machine guns.  The story line features a simple villager (Amajou Hansou) who, when forced by the rebel army to dig for diamonds, finds a diamond of great value.  In order to save his family, he tries to smuggle the gem out of the country with the help of a European diamond smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio).  

       The movie clearly is an action film.  Its violent scenes accurately reflect individual and journalistic accounts of Sierra Leone's lengthy civil war--and the brutal wars in many other third-world countries since the advent on the gun market of cheap, light, plentiful, and easy-to-use machine guns and other weapons of wars after the dismantling of the Soviet Union.  The international diamond trade has since made trading in "blood diamonds" harder by instituting the Kimberly Process Certification program, but some such trade still exists--estimates range from 1-5%--and, more importantly, violence like that shown in the movie continues on in other third-world countries every day, often fueled by other rich--if less flashy--resources.

        A good companion film to watch is the History Channel's 100 min. documentary Blood Diamonds--see below.


Blood Diamonds (USA)--nonfiction
History Channel Documentary, 2007. 100 min.  Available only by purchase through the History Channel.
  A few video stores may have it.  Blood Diamonds is a dramatic, accurate journalistic account of the current trade in--and history of--blood diamonds in Sierra Leone, next-door Liberia, the Congo, and a few other diamond-producing African nations, along with a history of how the DeBeers Company used "diamonds are forever" and other slogans to build what once was a small market for them into the huge market there is today.  Half or more of the film is specifically about Sierra Leone, and as such it serves as an excellent historical and visual background for the recent civil war in Sierra Leone.  [IHCC students, this video is available at the reserve desk in the Library.]


Catch A Fire (South Africa)

Movie video.  Anti-apartheid fiction based on true-life story.  Stars Derek Luke and Tim Robbins. It received 3.5 out of 4 stars by Jeff Strickler (Star Trib film critic), who says, "In the post-9/11 era, it's nigh unto impossible to make a sympathetic movie about a terrorist. Director Philip Noyce and star Derek Luke manage the impossible in 'Catch a Fire,' a true story about a South African man who is considered a national hero in his country's battle against apartheid."


Children of War (Uganda)
Documentary.  28 min., 2001.  Dir. Grunnet.  Distrib. Filmmakers Library, New York (  
Ugandan child soldiers (1 boy, 1 girl).  Available only through college and university libraries and by individual purchase ($295).  (Available by request at Inver Hills Library, on reserve for viewing in the Library's video room.)


Coexist (Rwanda)

Documentary.  37 min.  2010. "Coexist is a documentary and educational outreach project in use by more than 3,000 schools and community organizations in 50 states and more than a dozen countries. Our project includes a 40-minute film and a four-lesson Teacher’s Guide, which can be used in the classroom and in support of positive school climate campaigns, to counter bullying, and to encourage positive choices to prevent violence" (  

This film is available in libraries (e.g., the Inver Hills College Library). 


Cry, the Beloved Country (South Africa)

Movie Video, 1995. 3 of 4 stars.  About 105 min.  Fiction: Historical Drama.  Stars James Earl Jones and Richard Harris.  According to Time?Warner Cable, "A preacher's son kills a rich white man's son in Johannesburg," the capital of South Africa.  The movie has the often magnificent James Earl Jones speaking English with a wonderfully lilting Bushman/Afrikaner accent as he depicts the trials and tribulations of a very good man and Christian preacher whose sons fall from grace.  The film also has wonderful scenic views of the countryside and brief but accurate views of colonial Johannesburg, both the good and bad sides of town.  The musical score also is lush.  The original novel by the same name, written by Alan Paton, was rather famous in its time for showing some of the deeply rooted problems in apartheid South Africa (now no longer officially divided by race) and conveying how Europeans ran their African colonies.  The movie conveys less of this colonizing culture, but it does emphasize the novel's main themes: that both tragedy and kindness are events that cross racial and cultural barriers and can come into the life of anyone.


Cry Freetown (Sierra Leone)

Video, 199x. 3-4 stars. Approx. 1/2 hr.  Documentary by Sorious Samura.  (See also Return to Freetown below.)

Samura, a Sierra Leonean,  "shocked the world and changed his country's destiny" with this film depicting the civil war years of Sierra Leone.  He won the 1999 Rory Peck Freelance Television Cameraman Award, the Mohamed Amin award, and a 1999 Free Press-Africa award for the film.  To order it, see "Cry Freetown Web Site."


The Devil Came on Horseback (Darfur Region of Sudan)

Video, 2007. 3-3.5 stars.  85 min.  Documentary by Annie Suindberg & Ricki Stern.  Brian Steidle narrates his trips to Darfur.

This award-winning film is a difficult-to-watch but important film on the genocide in Darfur.  Steidle, a U.S. Marine Captain, volunteered to be an unarmed observer of the genocide in Darfur.  Completely unprepared for what he saw, he took many pictures of murdered villagers, burned villages and corpses, and living people explaining with great heartbreak what happened to them.  Steidle's photos were instrumental in getting the United States to declare the events in Darfur a genocide and in getting the U.N. to begin trying to take action.


Ghosts of Rwanda (Rwanda)

Movie Video, 2004.  120 min. 3-4 stars.  Documentary.  Produced and Financed by PBS, BBC, the MacArthur Foundation, and US News & World Report news magazine.  (See also Hotel Rwanda and Keepers of Memory below.)

This excellent documentary is a good companion piece for Hotel Rwanda (below), telling the real story behind the movie's fictionalized account of the death of almost one million people in ethnic cleansing.  The film contains interviews with a number of major players: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, former President Bill Clinton, and many others.  It also includes some of the more grisly real-life scenes of hundreds of corpses rotting in the sun or piled under church porticos, and even one or two actual killings by machete.  If it has a fault, it is in its relentless faulting of the world's powers for not stopping what, at the time to careless outsiders, seemed to be just another minor civil war.  This video is an excellent and deeply moving introduction to the Rwandan genocidal catastrophe.


God Grew Tired of Us (USA)

Movie Video, 2006, 89 min., 3-4 stars.  Documentary.  Director, Christopher Quinn.   Narrated by Nicole Kidman.  ***.  Orphaned by a tumultuous civil war in the Sudan and traveling barefoot across the sub-Saharan desert, John, Daniel and Panther were among the 25,000 "Lost Boys" who fled villages, formed surrogate families and sought refuge from famine, disease, wild animals and attacks from rebel soldiers. They traveled together for five years and against all odds crossed into the UN's refugee camp in Kenya, where they were selected to re-settle in the United States. Director Christopher Quinn explores the indomitable spirit of these three "Lost Boys," who triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities to build active and fulfilling new lives while remaining deeply committed to helping those left behind.   Details: and


Guns, Germs, and Steel (USA)

A National Geographic Video aired on PBS, 3-4 stars.  A documentary series based on the Pulitzer-prizewinning book by the same name.


Hotel Rwanda (Rwanda)

Movie Video, 2004.  122 min.  3-4 stars. Historical Drama.  Stars Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, and Nick Nolte.  (See also Ghosts of Rwanda above and Keepers of Memory below.) review: "Solidly built around a subtle yet commanding performance by Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda emerged as one of the most highly-praised dramas of 2004....  Cheadle plays real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in the Rwandan capital of Kigali who in 1994 saved 1,200 Rwandan 'guests' from certain death during the genocidal clash between tribal Hutus, who slaughtered a million victims, and the horrified Tutsis, who found safe haven or died....  Aided by a United Nations official (Nick Nolte), he worked a saintly miracle, and director Terry George (Some Mother's Son) brings formidable social conscience to bear on a true story you won't soon forget. --Jeff Shannon"


Keepers of Memory  (Rwanda)

Video, 2005.  2.5 to 3 stars.  52 min.  Documentary by Eric Kabera.  Dubbed.  (See also Hotel Rwanda and Ghosts of Rwanda above.)

Like Ghosts of Rwanda above, but simultaneously more personal and less polished, this video shows the Rwandan genocide through the eyes of its survivors and the memorials made in victims' honor.  While some of the footage in this film is even the same as that in Ghosts of Rwanda, the video is a closer, from-the-Rwandan-viewpoint look at the genocide.  The Toronto International Film Festival called it "a powerful testament to the pain that is the legacy of the Rwandan genocide."  It is available in some libraries and also through Choices, Inc., (310) 203-0606, ext. 4,  


The Last King of Scotland (Uganda)

Movie Video, 2006.  3.5 to 4 stars. Historical Biography/Drama.  This fictionalized biography of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin gained Forest Whitaker, who plays Amin, a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar. According to Minneapolis Star Tribune film critic Colin Covert, "Over the course of a bizarre and bloodthirsty eight-year reign, Uganda's president Idi Amin became Africa's answer to Nero, wrecking his nation's economy, killing 300,000 men, women and children, and reportedly keeping the severed heads of his opponents in refrigerators. In a continent oversupplied with genocidal dictators and warlords, Amin was the charismatic standout. 'The Last King of Scotland' is a spellbinding safari into the mind of His Excellency the madman."  Viewers watch this story through the eyes of a young Scottish doctor looking for adventure.  When Amin first comes to power, he takes a fancy to the doctor and eventually hires him as his doctor and one of his closest advisors.  Eventually, as the doctor becomes increasingly horrified by Amin's actions--and after unwittingly causing the death and dismemberment of one of Amin's wives--he barely escapes Uganda and Amin's wrath. 


Liberia: an Uncivil War (Liberia)
Documentary.  102 min., 2005.  Director, Jonathan Stack.  Distributor, California Newsreel.  Award Winner, Special Jury Prize, 2004, International Documentary Festival, Amsterdam.  
Filmed in 2002, this journalists' film documents through interviews and war footage the tensions and fighting between Charles Taylor's government forces around Monrovia and, opposing them, the LURD revolutionaries.  One of the two primary journalists followed Taylor and his people; the other followed the revolutionaries and their leader.  BBC and other footage also has been added.  The quality of the film is high, and while the first half shows interesting interviews with Taylor and other important figures in Liberia in 2002, thus providing useful factual information and views, it is the second half of the film that is moving and emotionally devastating: we see and hear child soldiers, both current and past, in action; we watch a refugee camp fill to ten times its maximum capacity; we see children starving and ordinary citizens killed by gunfire and buried in mass graves. 
Available by individual purchase ($195) and through college and university libraries.  (Available by request at Inver Hills Library, on reserve for viewing in the Library's video room.)


Operation Certain Death (Sierra Leone).

Documentary. 46 min. (1 hr. with commercials).  3 of 4 stars.  Publisher and distributor: National Geographic Cable Television.

The film documents the British armed rescue of peacekeeper soldiers captured in Sierra Leone's 1990s civil war.  The film uses actors to recreate scenes, along with  camera interviews of some of the real people involved, including the rebel leaders.  Near the end of the civil war, the West Side Boys, a notorious branch of the rebels trying to take over Sierra Leone, captured several British soldiers and their Sierra Leonean government army guide.  They were held under threat of death, the Sierra Leonean was beaten repeatedly, and all of them underwent several mock executions.   A specially-trained British SAS force invaded the West Side Boys' camps, creating a violent confrontation that ended in the death of at least two dozen and the rescue of the hostages.  This rescue, in turn, is credited with spurring the end of the civil war by causing rebels in many other areas of Sierra Leone, in fear of their lives, to surrender. 

Operation Fine Girl (Sierra Leone)
Documentary.  50 min., VCR, 2001.  Director, Mansaray.  Distributor, Witness.  
This film documents through interviews the lives of women who were forced into a form of slavery in which, as children or teenagers, they were forced to become "wives" of rebel soldier leaders in Sierra Leone's 1990s rebel movement, the RUF.  Though nonviolent, the film is captivating as we learn how the brutal rebels separated children from their parents and used rape as a tool of war, and how that has affected these women, now adult.  Some have jobs, some are prostitutes, and others are still trying to find permanence of some kind as they all try to deal with what happened to them. 
Available only through college and university libraries and by individual purchase ($200).  (Available by request at Inver Hills Library, on reserve for viewing in the Library's video room.)

Return to Freetown (Sierra Leone)

Video, 1990s. 3 stars. Approx. 1/2 hr.  Documentary by Sorious Samura.  (See also Cry Freetown above.)

Samura, a Sierra Leonean,  "shocked the world" with his earlier film, Cry Freetown.  In this one, he returns to his country and follows the life of three children, former child soldiers, who recount how they were forced to become killers for a rebel leader "driven by greed for diamonds and power."  To order it, see "Cry Freetown Web Site."


Roots (West Africa, U.S.A.)

A Series by Alex Haley (from his original book).  563 min.  From 1977 Television Special Series.

Though this series primarily is about slavery in the U.S., the early parts about Africa and the culture of West Africa brought by slaves to the U.S. are informative in relation to Sierra Leone, as Kunta Kinta was kidnapped from nearby Gambia, West Africa in the 1700s. review: "From the moment the young Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) is stolen from his life and ancestral home in 18th-century Africa and brought under inhumane conditions to be auctioned as a slave in America, a line is begun that leads from this most shameful chapter in U.S. history to the 20th-century author Alex Haley, a Kinte descendant....  The programs cover several generations in the antebellum South....  - Tom Keogh"


Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone)

30 min.  Documentary.  Dr. Henry Jones.  DVD available at  

While sometimes confusing and difficult to hear--and recorded only midway through the civil war--this video uses sometimes startling images of protests and of inhumane killing by Nigerian soldiers sent to stop the civil conflict, along with interviews of two or three key leaders.


Sometimes in April (Rwanda)

2005.  3-4 stars.  About 150 min.  HBO/PBS.  Stars Idris Elba, Debra Winger, and Carole Karemera.  Availability unknown.

This HBO movie, recently also shown on PBS, "recounts the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide" and is called "wrenching" by critic Neal Justin.  In the movie, "A Hutu solider tries to get his family to safety during the Rwandan genocide, while years later his brother stands trial for his actions."  --May 4, 2005, p. E8, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.   According to Michael Varien in a private communication, "The movie is a drama/pseudo-documentary that follows a Hutu soldier married to a Tusi wife; a nun at a Catholic school for girls; and the Hutu soldier's brother, a radio personality during the genocide who is on trial for his part in the genocide....  Over all, this was a much better movie than Hotel Rwanda in that it provided a better understanding of what...happened."


"A Tale of Two Girls" (Japan, Sierra Leone)

This four-minute movie from the World Health Organization compares the life of two girls: one from Japan and the other from the capital city of Sierra Leone.  See it at  


Tears of the Sun (Ethiopia/Sierra Leone)

2003.  3 of 4 stars.  About 2 hrs.  Action/drama.  Stars Bruce Willis.  "R" rated.

Set in 1990s Ethiopia, this film provides a glimpse into the plight of many African war refugees.  While the movie takes place primarily in the lush Ethiopian countryside, much of it is based on the award-winning video "Cry Freetown" about civil war in Sierra Leone.  Bruce Willis provides a good performance as the ocmmander of a unit of U.S. soldiers who, at great risk and a high cost, protect and guide Ethiopian refugees, one of whom secretly is the son of an important leader, to safety.  The film treats Africans with respect and moderate depth and shows examples of atrocities.  In the DVD version's extras, the director talks about how Sierra Leone influenced him.


Tsotsi (South Africa)

2005.  3-4 (of 4) stars.  95 min.  Action/drama. 

The leader of a young gang of street toughs in urban Johannesburg (the name "Tsotsi" means "thing") shoots a mother during a carjacking, then takes and cares for her infants, thereby beginning to regain his humanity.  The movie uses South African actors and offers excellent insights about--and views of--how poor African city dwellers live.


UN Millenium Project--Kenya Village (Kenya)

"The UN Millenium Project, led by economic Jeffrey Sachs, is trying to show in two specific, poor villages, how to lift people out of poverty as a model that can be used throughout Africa and the world.  When you get a moment (this works best with a high-speed connection), please take a peek at the following excellent video on the Kenya village with Angelina Jolie and Jeffrey Sachs.  You can either click on the link below, or copy the address and paste it into your internet search engine:
player.jhtml?id=1509772."  --Jeff Hall

Warrior Marks

1995.  54 min.  Documentary.  Produced by Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar.  (For purchase, contact Women Make Movies, Inc. 462 Broadway, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10013.  212-925-0606.  

Walker, author of The Color Purple and an African American, is one of the best fiction writers in the U.S.   This short film details African female circumcision, sometimes called female genital mutilation--a major health, gender, and social problem in many African countries, including Sierra Leone. (Borrow this from a library, as  rental or purchase is expensive.  For purchase, contact Women Make Movies, Inc. 462 Broadway, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10013, ph. 212-925-0606.  INVER HILLS COLLEGE students: this film is in the College Library for viewing in the library's video viewing room.)


Witness to Truth (Sierra Leone) 

May 2005.  Documentary.  WITNESS project in partnership with Sierra Leone Truth & Reconciliation Commission.  

"In a groundbreaking use of video documentation, WITNESS was invited by the Sierra Leonean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to produce the first video accompaniment to an official TRC report. 'Witness to Truth' summarizes the key findings and recommendations of the TRC's report -- highlighting the key causes and consequences of the war, raising public awareness of the TRC's peace-building efforts throughout the country, and encouraging civil society in Sierra Leone and beyond to hold the government accountable for implementing the binding recommendations that will be issued by the TRC." --Http://  Available online at


Yesterday (South Africa)

2006. 3 stars. 95 minutes.  HBO.  Directed by Darrell James Roodt (Cry, the Beloved Country). English and French subtitles.  Supported in part by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Africa Foundation.

This quiet, beautiful, and ultimately deeply moving film is the fictional story of Yesterday, a young Zulu woman who discovers that she has AIDS.  Her kindness and spirit match the soaring beauty of the landscape as she struggles to come to terms with her disease, her husband who picked it up in the mine fields of Johannesburg, and her bright young daughter who Yesterday wants to send to school.  Films about how and why the AIDS crisis affects large populations of Africans are rare, and this film explains aspects of it in simple, moving terms.  The film was a 2004 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.   


Most recent revision of this page: 6 Nov. 2012

First publication of Web site as, 15 Aug. 2005; as, 15 June 2010.

Written content & page design unless otherwise noted: Richard Jewell.

Photos unless otherwise noted are © 2004-10 by R. Jewell and other members of OneVillage Partners. 

Public Web address: Host address:

Questions, suggestions, comments, & requests for site links: Contact Richard Jewell.
This web site is an educational site for the benefit of the students of Inver Hills College and other students everywhere.


Sierra Leone à//