BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 07:19 GMT
Sorious Samura: Africa to Europe
Sorious Samura
"The Western perception of Africa is always about famine, floods or war"
News Online's Justin Pearce speaks to Sierra Leonean film maker Sorious Samura, whose films Exodus and Walking on Ashes are launched this week.

A lifeless African body washed up on a Spanish beach is a startling opening image to one of two new films by Sorious Samura being launched this week.

The film is called Exodus - and the body is that of an unnamed West African man who has paid the ultimate price in his efforts to reach Europe.

Africans who have given up all hope in their own continent are the main focus of the film. But Samura uses the phenomenon of emigration to raise questions about Africa's relationship with Europe - and ultimately Africa's relationship with itself.

"The Western perception of Africa is always about famine, floods or war - the bottom line is they have always thought we are savages."

He blames this on ignorance, and the failure of the Western media.

With immigration being the subject of much political point-scoring in Europe at the moment, Exodus presents Western audiences with the human faces behind the hysteria.

Burgers and vomit

The message aimed at African viewers is rather different - though no less passionately felt.

Sorious Samura
"Most of the Africans who had been here and went back never told us these stories"
The film includes a sequence where Samura acts out scenes from the time he spent in London trying to save up money to buy a movie camera.

By night he mopped up vomit in tube stations - by day he cooked hamburgers - and on Sundays he slept.

"Most of the Africans who had been here (to Europe) and went back never told us these stories," he explains.

"They go back home with shining bracelets and watches and say 'you should come'.

"I thought now I have seen it first hand I want to go back and warn these people and say look, this is not the truth!"

Answers from within

Sorious Samura
"We have a serious problem that's boiling between anglophone and francophone countries"
Samura is convinced that the answers to Africa's crises and low self-image - which convince malcontents that life in Europe must be better - can only come from within.

A first step is for Africans have to sort out their internal divisions.

A Sierra Leonean interviewed in the film says he would rather live in the United Kingdom than in nearby Mali "because I am an Englishman".

Samura believes that in addition to the obvious problem of ethnic rivalry, "we have a serious problem that's boiling between anglophone and francophone countries so it's difficult even to migrate from an English-speaking country to a French-speaking country".

Jail in Liberia

While Sorious Samura made his mark as a film maker with Cry Freetown - an uncompromising look at the civil war in Sierra Leone - he recently made international headlines when he was detained with other members of a Channel 4 crew.

Sorious Samura
"Taylor fooled the whole world about arms and ammunition - we proved otherwise"
At the time of the arrest, much attention focussed on a draft script, highly unflattering to President Charles Taylor, which the Liberian authorities found in the possession of the Channel 4 crew.

Samura believes that while it was "a big mistake" that the document fell into the wrong hands, the real reason for their arrest lay elsewhere.

What really rankled the Liberian president, Samura believes, was not the document, but video footage obtained secretly by the team.

Arms imports

They filmed the ships on which logs are exported from the port of Buchanan - and which return to port laden with arms.

"Taylor has succeeded to fool the whole world about arms and ammunition - we were somewhere where we proved otherwise."

In the prison I understood better how Liberia is run

The draft script ended up being "a blessing in disguise", Samura believes, because it provided evidence they were indeed journalists when President Taylor was trying to pin espionage charges on them.

The week in a Liberian jail naturally had its moments of terror - "when they threatened to cut open my chest and eat my heart and use my blood to write on the wall 'cry Samura'".

But Samura is able in retrospect able to see even this experience as a blessing:

"In the prison I understood better how Liberia is run. The prison operates like a Mafia system. You have about 15 prisoners who are in charge - in the wing where we were there were 350 people and those 15 guys in that wing decide who is to be raped, who is to eat one meal a day, who is to go for days without a meal, who is to be beaten.

"And that is exactly how Liberia is being run by Charles Taylor."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories