This is the deeply moving tale of a band of refugees from the terrible civil war that devastated Sierra Leone. The documentary follows them from camp to camp in Guinea, where they are living as displaced persons, until their return to Freetown in Sierra Leone.
First-time film makers Zach Niles and Banker White, sensitively allow the harrowing stories of the band members to be told while capturing the indefatigable spirit of hope and positivity that shines through this remarkable group of people. The story they have captured is so powerful, and to their credit, is simply told.
This is a story of terrible, senseless things happening to good people. It is a tale of journeys undertaken, courage, hope and talent but above all it is a love story. The love of half a dozen musicians for each other, for their families, their fellow refugees and their country.
It is frequently not easy to watch, Mohammed’s story in particular is so devastating that it is easy to see why he alone can never return to his homeland. Nevertheless, there is such joy and humour in this tight band of musicians that the film easily carries you along.
With the help of the UNHCR, most of the band return to Freetown to see for themselves whether it is safe to return home and while there they are reunited with friends and musicians like Ashade Pearce. Together, they get to go to a studio for the first time in their lives and record a wonderful album with the help of Brixtonian Sam Jones.
Their music is a syncretic mesh of reggae, hip hop, Sierra Leonean goombay and something of themselves.
The documentary is showing as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, March 20-21, 2005 at The Ritzy in Brixton with the film makers present on both nights.
More details of the festival programme here.
The album is available from the Refugee All Stars website with a $20 Donation — all the proceeds going to the band.