Monday, February 28, 2011

7 Things You Should Know about Sierra Leone

Chances are you don't know anything about Sierra Leone except that it's somewhere in Africa. This post is to teach you the basics of this nation, where our film crew is heading from
March 15 to 30. Some here are some tidbits you should know:

1) Sierra Leone is roughly the size and population of the Golden Horseshoe
of southern Ontario.

2) The country was once a British colony and the hub of the transatlantic slave trade.

3) The hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour were called Serra de Leão by early Portuguese explorers, meaning "Lion Mountains." That's how the country got its name.

4) Like many African countries, Sierra Leone is divided into a rainy season (from May to November) and a dry season (December to April). That's why our crew has chosen to
film in March.

5) Based on per-capita GDP (the wealth of a nation divided by population), Sierra Leone is often ranked the poorest or second-poorest country on Earth.

6) Ironically, Sierra Leone is one of the top 10 diamond-producing nations in the world.

7) Diamonds played a key role in the bloody civil war of 1991-2002. The amputee soccer team lost their limbs during those dark years, and that era is the focus of the film, LEONE STARS.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

10 Questions for Director Ngardy Conteh

1) First, how do you pronounce your name?
I always tell people it’s like "Daddy." but with a ‘G’. The ‘N’ and ‘R’ are silent. My name is traditional spelt "N’gadie," "Ngadie" or "Ngady," but my father (who was a linguist) altered the spelling of my name, as he did with all my siblings.

2) What's your connection to the subjects of this film?
I was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone to Sierra Leonean parents. You can say the subjects of the film are my countrymen.

3) How did you get from Sierra Leone to Canada?
My father came to Canada to pursue his PhD at the University of Toronto on a Commonwealth Scholarship, he brought my family with him when I was three-years-old

4) Who will you film in Sierra Leone?
We will film a range of people, but the focus will be on the players on the single-leg amputee soccer team.

5) What do you wish to learn from them?
I want to learn how they are have been able to adapt to life post-war, what is the driving force behind their desire to be a part of the team. How playing soccer has helped them transcend the obstacles in their lives.

6) Beside the capital of Freetown, will you film elsewhere in Sierra Leone?
We plan on traveling to the villages of Bo and Mattru Jong, and possibly another village, the plans are unfolding each day.

7) What will the climate and conditions be like in SL?
What do you expect to see and feel when you set foot on SL soil?
SL is gearing up to celebrate their 50th anniversary of independence at the end of April, so I imagine the vibe with be very positive getting ready for the celebrations. There has been lots of re-building over the years since the end of the war but there is still a lot to be done.
I’m not sure how I will feel, I’ve imagined this moment for so many years, excitement definitely. I don't have any childhood memories of Sierra Leone so I am hoping just the smells and sites of Freetown will trigger memories.

8) How did you find your director of photography, Colin Akoon?
Colin and I worked several years ago on a television documentary series. He was the DP and I was directing a few episodes. We worked very well together. I trust in his creative skills, and instinct and I always wanted to work with him again if the opportunity arose.

9) How's your family helping you with this shoot?
Myself and the crew will be staying with my extended family while in Freetown and in the villages. They have leant their support and knowledge thought this whole process, especially my mother. The Sierra Leone community in Toronto has also been very helpful as well.

10) What's the theme behind this film? The message?
Belonging. Hope. Strength. Resilience. Finding dignity and belonging through sports.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Filming in Freetown in March

Director Ngardy Conteh cinematographer Colin Akoon will journey to Freetown and neighbouring villages from March 15 to 30 to capture the life stories of the Leone Stars amputee soccer team. Ngardy and Colin will also visit some of the villages from where the players hailed -- and escaped during the civil war.

Joining them on this trip will be Toronto photographer, Johnny Vong, who is generously donating his time to take pictures and help Ngardy and Colin.

During that war, the players were boys and young adolescents when rebel soldiers hacked off their arms and legs. This film will tell those stories and the hope that their team gives them in surviving in post-war Sierra Leone.

Ngardy will be blogging while she is there. Subscribe to this blog to receive regular updates.

This shoot is funded by generous donors through a recent Kickstarter campaign and a grant from the Toronto Arts Council.

Despite that, the production team is on a tight budget (nobody is making a dime off this film) and we're looking for a deal on P2 cards for our videocamera and a boom mic kit. If anyone in the Toronto area can offer us a reasonable rate on either or both items, please contact co-producer & writer Allan Tong. Thank you!

Next post:
Meet the film crew of the LEONE STARS documentary.

Allan Tong