“The Girl In The Boys’ Home”
Freetown, Sierra Leone
In the wake of Ebola, four ex-child soldiers – now leaders of the same Nehemiah Home for Boys that they themselves grew up in - are preparing for a major influx of recently orphaned children. They’re building a new wing to accommodate more boys but more significantly, they’re also building a wing to accommodate some of the many girls now orphaned by the disease.
There is of course the likelihood that introducing girls to this traditionally all-male environment may create situations that are difficult to predict. But there is also a real joy among the leaders that they’ve taken this decision. “It gives us the right balance” PS Kamara says, “It gives us that gender sensitivity”.
PS Kamara, acting on behalf of major NGO’s like UNESCO and MSF, is tasked with locating these young Ebola survivors, and offering some of them a place in the home. We hear of his motives - that his violent past has left him with a passionate desire to serve his community. PS is the narrative spine of our film – in telling his story we’re telling the story of all disadvantaged children.
This will be a coming together of people who have experienced great adversity – the leaders in the early days of the home were ex-child soldiers recovering from the brutalizing trauma of the conflict – and the new arrivals today coming to terms with the loss of everything and yet daring to hope for a future for themselves.
The boys from the Boys’ Home are building the block that will become a home to the girls. And the boys are going to have to befriend and help these girls get used to a new life, without their biological families. Unfortunately Ebola victims are now suffering the same alienation and rejection from an uninformed public that haunted ex-rebel child soldiers for many years – so they have that one thing – exclusion - in common.
This is a sweet essay about young people getting to know each other – sometimes awkwardly, sometimes funnily, sometimes with difficulty. And, given the context – the dark undertow of their pasts – we will want them to succeed.
One girl is already there – a pregnant 17 year-old living in a converted office space while the boys prepare her room. We’ve started our story with her.
But our story is also about social enterprise and how it can create sustainable social capital – in this case, we can tell our audience, the production process of the film that you’re watching, helped pay for the Girls’ Home you now care about.
This documentary is already in production – shooting over the summer of 2015.
As BritDoc, supporter of over 60 British films, says: “We believe great documentaries enrich the lives of individuals. They have a unique ability to engage and connect people, transform communities and improve societies.”
#002 Low Budget Feature
"The Richard Cole Story"
The Nehemiah Home for Boys was founded in 1996 by a stubborn, maverick priest; a Sierra Leonean called Richard Cole. He created a safe haven for ex-boy soldiers in the teeth of public opposition. Community revulsion at having ex-rebel boy soldiers in their midst was so intense that an armed mob of citizens attacked the home in an attempt to destroy it and execute the children. Richard Cole and the children had to defend their territory. Richard Cole out-faced the mob, his head gashed and bleeding from a hurled brick, and told them “If you want to kill these guys you’re going to have to pass through me”.
This is the stuff great stories – and great movies – are made of.
During the conflict and its aftermath Richard Cole rescued over 800 war-affected and socially blighted children. In fact he would often go into the bush, at considerable personal risk to himself, to negotiate with the rebels for the release of some of their child soldiers. As a result of his vision, energy and heart these broken children are now doctors, lawyers, teachers, carpenters and mechanics, spread across the nation of Sierra Leone. He had no training in running a home – the only training he’d ever had was in pig-farming – but he knew something about love. He had absolute faith in the principle that loving people will invariably bring out the best in them. His methods would not be applauded by everyone, but those methods had a wisdom of Solomon about them combined with a really terrific sense of humour. He had an almost supernatural knack of restoring shattered people to a state of personal dignity.
His story and the stories of those he rescued are crammed with filmic incident and carry a powerful emotional cargo. This is less a story about atrocities and more a story about the transformational power of love. It’s a story about a man trying to keep a school open against all the odds and in the face of armed public opposition. It’s a story about forgiveness creating better social capital then punishment. It’s a story that needs telling. Richard Cole was, after all, the Schindler of West Africa.
We tell Cole’s story, as seen through the eyes of Samuel, just one of those eight hundred war-affected children. Although traumatised and haunted by the terrible nature of his past, he rediscovers his own humanity through the friendship, guidance and example of this unorthodox but charismatic man.
When the opportunity arises to break the cycle of violence and heal his community, Samuel has the courage to risk everything and take it. And in doing so he becomes an unlikely hero – becomes in fact a young man with a future instead of a child with a past.
A tribe of Guarani Indians live on a reservation called Krukutu. For some years now they have been trying to get the government to give them rights over their own land. This would allow them more effectively to protect the rain forest from illegal commercial exploitation. The young Krukutu poet, Werá Jeguaka Mirim, attracted some notice when he was part of the opening ceremony for the World Cup and pulled a huge red “Demarcation Now!” sign out of his trousers. We are opening discussions with the acclaimed Brazillian writer Heloisa Prieto to see how we can tell a story from within that community, while leaving behind a legacy of sustainable social good.