|Catalyst for Peace presents
A film by Sara Terry
Directed and Produced by Sara Terry
Produced by Libby Hoffman and Rory Kennedy
Runtime: 82 minutes
Marian Koltai – marian.koltai @pmkbnc.com
Freida Orange – Freida.orange @pmkbnc.com
Rachel Aberly – Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal war come together for the first time in an unprecedented reconciliation program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies.
Victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war come together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. Through reviving their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk), Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level – succeeding where the international community’s post-conflict efforts failed. Filled with lessons for the West, this film explores the depths of a culture that believes that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals – and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities.
When I was in high school, I remember reading a newspaper story about a village in Africa – and the way that villagers dealt justice to one of their own who had committed a crime (a theft, I think it was). When the offender was caught, he was brought into the middle of the village to acknowledge his crime, and all of the residents formed a circle around him. One by one, each person addressed the offender by name – and then identified something good about him, something of value in his character. And so it went around the whole circle, the rendering of one judgment after another – not of condemnation, but of affirmation, a determination to bring the offender back to an awareness of his true self, to remind him so forcefully of his own inherent goodness that he would not commit a crime again.
I have thought often of that story– particularly so over the past three years as I have been making Fambul Tok. For a western mind-set, convinced that law and order – and justice – are maintained by punishment and imprisonment, it is a shock to encounter a culture and a people who believe that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals, and that truth-telling and forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities. It’s more than many of us can wrap our minds around.
In fact, when I first shared these incredible stories of apology and forgiveness from Sierra Leone with a colleague who would eventually become closely involved with the film, his response was, “Wow, so we’re going to look at all these horrible things that happened during the war, and then ask, How on earth can these people forgive it?” I had to explain several times, that no, I did not want to stand outside this culture, apart from these people, and make a film from an incredulous point of view, that demanded them to prove the reality and practicality of these acts of forgiveness. My standpoint as a filmmaker would be to take their standpoint, to let their words, their stories, their lives show me, show all of us, why forgiveness was possible for them. Because maybe then, we might begin to learn why forgiveness is possible for the rest of us.
It was a tricky thing to make a film that tries to let a culture speak for itself while being mindful of a Western audience that I fully expected would be baffled by the idea that truth-telling and forgiveness equate with justice. I was always doing interviews in the field, and working in the edit room, with those viewers in mind, trying to make a film that takes viewers deeper and deeper into this culture of forgiveness, into the fabric of communities that are bound by what South Africans call ubuntu, which means essentially, “Because you are, I am.”
That’s why the film doesn’t build in a traditional way, doesn’t step up from horrific story to ever more horrific story. The film spills out more gently, more subtly – tracking the story of a culture that is being reborn before our eyes, and of a people who themselves are being renewed as they revive their ancient practice of fambul tok, of resolving conflict through conversation.
At the heart of this film, too, is a decision made early on, that there would be no Western voices in this narrative – no Western experts, no Western reporters who covered the war, no Western archival footage. I believe the West has had more than its fair share of opportunity to tell Africa’s stories, to tell the stories of Sierra Leone, to be the arbiters and filters of a culture we don’t even begin to understand. I believe, quite firmly, that we should stop talking about saving Africa – and start coming to this continent and its people – to the people of Sierra Leone -- with the humble desire to learn from their great wisdom. In making Fambul Tok, I have tried to answer the call of Nigerian writer and Booker Prize winner Ben Okri, who wrote:
“We have to re-discover Africa. The first discovery of Africa by Europe was the wrong one. It was not a discovery. It was an act of misperception. They saw, and bequeathed to future ages, an Africa based on what they thought of as important. They did not see Africa. And this wrong seeing of Africa is part of the problems of today. Africa was seen from a point of view of greed, of what could be got from it. And what you see is what you make. What you see in a people is what you eventually create in them. It is now time for a new seeing. It is now time to clear the darkness from the eyes of the Western world. The world should now begin to see the light in Africa, to see its sunlight, to see its brightness, its brilliance, its beauty. If we see it, it will be revealed… Only what we see anew, is revealed to us. Africa has been waiting, for centuries, to be discovered with eyes of love, the eyes of a lover. There is no true seeing without love."
ABOUT THE CAST & CREW
SARA TERRY (Producer/Director)
“Fambul Tok” is Sara Terry’s first feature-length documentary. A former, award-winning reporter for the Christian Science Monitor (and founding member of Monitor Radio, the Monitor’s public radio program), Sara Terry made a mid-career transition into photojournalism and documentary photography in the late 1990s. The focus of her work since then has been in post-conflict societies. Her long-term project about the aftermath of war in Bosnia -- “Aftermath: Bosnia’s Long Road to Peace” -- was published in September 2005 by Channel Photographics, and was chosen as one of the best books of the year by PDN (Photo District News). Her work has been widely published and exhibited at such venues as the United Nations, Moving Walls/Open Society, the Museum of Photography in Antwerp, and the Leica Gallery in Solms, Germany. She is the founder of The Aftermath Project (www.theaftermathproject.org) a non-profit grant program that helps photographers cover the aftermath of conflict, and builds educational outreach and partnerships around the understanding that “war is only half the story.” She is currently in production on her second documentary, “FOLK,” about three singer-songwriters trying to make it in the changing sub-culture of American folk music. She is also the frequent guest host of To the Point, and Left, Right and Center – public radio shows produced by KCRW, Santa Monica, and distributed to stations nation-wide by Public Radio International.
LIBBY HOFFMAN (Producer/Executive Producer)
Elisabeth (Libby) Hoffman has been active in peacebuilding for 25 years in a variety of capacities – professor, trainer, facilitator, program director, consultant, and funder. A former Political Science professor at Principia College, she left academia to focus on the practice of peacebuilding with an emphasis on making the link between individual and community transformation. She has developed and led conflict resolution training programs in corporate, congregational, educational and community settings. She founded Catalyst for Peace (a Portland, Maine based private foundation) in 2003, in order to mobilize and support locally rooted peacebuilding around the world, and to pioneer in communications to bring the stories of this work to the world.
It was in her capacity as President of Catalyst for Peace that she first began working with Sara Terry to document stories of forgiveness and reconciliation in post-conflict Africa. In the course of this work, she met John Caulker and they began the partnership that led to the founding of Fambul Tok in Sierra Leone, alongside the commitment to document the process in film. With the growth and success of the Fambul Tok program, and an increasing demand to share the model in other parts of the world, Fambul Tok International incorporated as an international organization in 2009, with Hoffman serving as President.
Hoffman holds a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a BA in Political Science from Williams College. “Fambul Tok” is her first feature length film.
John Caulker founded and has led the implementation of the Fambul Tok program since its inception in 2007, initially through his position as the founding Executive Director of Sierra Leonean human rights NGO, Forum of Conscience. He is continuing and expanding his leadership of Fambul Tok as the Executive Director of Fambul Tok International.
Mr. Caulker first became a human rights activist as a student leader during the initial years of the war in Sierra Leone. Risking his life to document wartime atrocities, he infiltrated rebel camps disguised as a rebel to gather information and stories that he would then pass along to international organizations such as Amnesty International, Article 19, and Human Rights Watch. He founded Forum of Conscience as a human rights NGO in Sierra Leone in 1996.
As Executive Director of Forum of Conscience, Mr. Caulker strove to prevent recurring violence by connecting the root causes of Sierra Leone’s brutal conflict to the need for rural community participation in the national decision making process and acknowledgement of wrong doing to victims through the reparations program.
As the national chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Working Group, Mr. Caulker pressured the government of Sierra Leone to implement the recommendations of the TRC’s 2004 report. Specifically, he has fought to ensure that some of the revenues from the sale of Sierra Leone’s natural resources benefit Sierra Leoneans themselves in the form of a special fund for war victims. As part of this effort to raise awareness and guarantee protection for the rights of victims of the conflict, Mr. Caulker also mediated an agreement that allows members of the Amputees and War Wounded Association to participate in the TRC and Special Court process.
ADDITIONAL KEY PERSONEL
RORY KENNEDY (Producer)
Rory Kennedy is an Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning independent documentary filmmaker, as well as co-founder and president of Moxie Firecracker Films. Her films cover an array of issues ranging from poverty to politics to human rights. You may have seen her work on HBO, A&E, MTV, Lifetime and PBS. Kennedy has directed and produced feature documentaries including, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” (Primetime Emmy Award winner for Best Non Fiction Film, 2007), Thank You, Mr. President: Helen Thomas at the White House, American Hollow, A Boy’s Life, and Pandemic: Facing AIDS.
BRIAN SINGBIEL (Editor)
Brian Singbiel focused his film education on editing at Chapman University, which earned him many honors including a student nomination at the 2003 A.C.E. Eddie Awards. He honed his craft by editing short films, spec commercials and music videos while working with established editors on feature documentaries such as Seamless and America the Beautiful. Singbiel’s first feature documentary as lead editor was the 2008 Sundance hit “Bigger, Stronger, Faster.” His other credits include the 2010 Toronto doc directed by Ondi Timmoner, “Cool It!,” the 2009 Sundance doc, “Dirt! The Movie” and “Exporting Raymond.”
HENRY JACOBSON (Director of Photography)
“Fambul Tok” is Henry Jacobson’s first feature-length documentary. He began working in documentary film after graduating from Hampshire College with a project called Bilwas, a film about the lingering effects and public health disaster following twenty years of war in a small Miskito village in eastern Nicaragua. After moving to Los Angeles, he began working for Steven Bernstein, ASC, who became his mentor in cinematography. Henry soon started work on his own documentary feature “Jesus Goes to Hollywood,” and is currently the Director of Photography on two documentary features; “FOLK,” Sara Terry’s second documentary, and “Truth in Translation,” directed by Michael Lessac. This work has taken him around the globe and inspired his latest photo project “Phoenix Flown” which marries his work at home as a fashion photographer with his experience in international post conflict peace building – photographing the work of visionary young designers working in post conflict countries.
KATE AMEND, A.C.E. (Consulting Editor)
In December 2005, Kate Amend received the International Documentary Association’s inaugural award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing for her work which includes two Academy Award-winning documentary features: “Into the Arms of Strangers” and “The Long Way Home.” Amend also received the 2001 American Cinema Editors’ Eddie award for “Into the Arms of Strangers,”, and edited the 2001 Oscar-nominated documentary short ON TIPTOE: Gentle Steps to Freedom.
ISSAR SHULMAN (Composer)
Israeli composer Issar Shulman won an Emmy in 2008 for his soundtrack for the HBO documentary, “To Die in Jerusalem.” A graduate of the Royal Conservatory in the Hague, Holland, he composes for television, theater, dance, commercials and movies. He also plays double bass with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra.
Catalyst for Peace
Produced and Directed by
Editor and Co-Producer
Director of Photography
Kate Amend, A.C.E.
Virginia Lee Hunter
Virginia Lee Hunter
Post Production Supervisor
Ali Biko Kamanda
Wangdo Fayia Bundor
guitar, piano, double bass, cello, programming
Adiel Shmit, cello
Alusine Swaray, vocals
Adelide Asiamah, vocals
Grace Dadzie, vocals
Asaf Roth, marimba
Eran Darbuka, djembe
Special Court of Seirra Leone
The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The Toronto Star
Photo of John Caulker courtesy of Amnesty International
Still Photographs © Sara Terry
Supervising Sound Editor
Michael W. Mullane, M.P.S.E.
Post Production Services by illuminate/HTV
HTV Post Production Supervisor
HTV Project Manager
Special Thanks to:
Cohen Family Foundation
Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman
Patricia Heaton and David Hunt
Alfred Hoffman, Jr.
The People of Sierra Leone and
the staff and volunteers of Fambul Tok
Cara Mertes, Rahdi Taylor,
Kristin Feeley, Win-Sie Tow,
Dyana Winkler and
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
Milton Tabbot, Rose Vincelli and
the staff at IFP
Amy Potter Czajkowski
Phil and Monica Rosenthal
The KonTerra Group
© 2010 Catalyst for Peace. All rights reserved.
Catalyst for Peace is the author of this motion picture for purposes of copyright and other laws.
This motion picture is protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any unauthorized duplication, copying, distribution or use of all or part of this motion picture may result in civil liability and/or criminal prosecution in accordance with applicable laws.
Second Draft 16 July 2010