Whenever I speak about Sierra Leone, I usually get the same reactions: "is is safe?" "isn't there still war in Sierra Leone?", or I just get met with confused facial expressions that show off the thought process of: "Sierra Leone? I've heard of the name before, but I can't quite place it on the map." Having been to Sierra Leone myself, having travelled around the country meeting different local communities, and having already booked my ticket to go and live over there for a year (at least), I can say that it is a safe, beautiful and dynamic country with a lot of potential.
In the build up to my departure, I have been making a lot of contacts in Sierra Leone, and especially with those who are actively working to change the image of the country and to place it on the world map with a reputation it truly deserves, based on facts, transparency, and by telling the story of the people who make 'Sweet Salone' the country that it is, and is becoming.
One of these people is Daan Veldhuizen, a film maker from Amsterdam who spent months in Sierra Leone, specifically in a coastal village called Lakka on the Western Area Peninsula, just below Freetown (the capital). Whilst there he filmed a documentary exploring the lives of the people that make up Lakka beach, the characters that give it its vibrancy, its colours, and its unyielding positivity and lust for life.
"Stories from Lakka Beach" has just been released on DVD after a year of touring independent film festivals and winning several awards in the process. I managed to get a copy, and sat down to watch it, excited at the prospect of discovering more about a country that already holds a place in my heart, and the people that call Lakka beach their home.
Set in beautiful surroundings, on a pristine beach that once featured in the 1980's Bounty chocolate bar commercial "A Taste of Paradise", this award winning docu-film follows the everyday lives of a cast of characters, diverse in the experiences they have been through and the aspirations they have in life, but united by a civil conflict that, even eleven years after its end, has left the country scarred and struggling to get back on track. By exploring their philosophies on life, their visions of the future, their past experiences, their struggles and their successes, the film gives the audience a rare glimpse into the psyche of a post-conflict society set on progressing positively towards the future, regardless of their economic hardships and ever mindful of the obstacles that lie ahead.
"Stories from Lakka Beach" is a tale of resourcefulness and determination, coupled with a simple yet deep philosophy that will make the viewer meditate on what is really important in this life, and realise that no matter how hard things get, the ability to look towards a brighter future and see the positive side to everything will overcome any hardships.
The trailer below will give you a taste of what to expect in the film.
For more information on the film itself, and how to purchase the DVD, go to www.storiesfromlakkabeach.com. The DVD is packed full with features such as 4TP's "Cham Chicken" music video (see below) and it comes in a very good looking case that could be framed as a photo. You can even have the option to get an original wood carving as a gift item. Definitely a collectable!
To learn more about Sierra Leone, as well as other countries in West Africa, please visit www.westafricadiscovery.com or join our a community of people passionate about West Africa here.