Webs, Books, Films
Directory of Resources
(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.
Source for Specific Videos and DVDs:
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.
Videos, and Other Films:
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. Amazon.com 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
Blood Diamond (USA)--fiction
Movie Video, 2006, 2.5-3.5 stars. 143 min.
Fiction: Historical Drama. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Amajou Hansou, and
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.
A good companion film to watch is the History Channel's 100 min. documentary Blood Diamonds--see below.
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."
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
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.
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.)
Amazon.com 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, www.choicesvideo.net.
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)
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
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.
Amazon.com 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 www.amazon.com.
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 http://www.who.int/features/2003/11/en/.
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:
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.
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://witness.org.
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 SLPP.org, 15 Aug. 2005; as SierraLeoneResources.org, 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.
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