From Clive Patterson and premiered at Sheffield Doc Fest comes this documentary about art and culture in Sierra Leone. A film keen to add a new narrative to the people of this country, Sing, Freetown explores a more positive culture for Sierra Leone, as it follows Charlie Haffner and Sorious Samura on their journey to fundraise, produce and perform a play that speaks to it’s people about the richness of their culture.
Clive Patterson, producer and director of factual documentaries that appear to be mostly set in Africa, is of mixed heritage and understands like Sorious what it’s like to exist between two cultures, and as director, this is perhaps why it oft feels that Sorious himself has directed this doc, as we get a real understanding of the conflict within this journalist between the culture of the two settings. He was a renowned British reporter of African affairs and he was also a Sierra Leonean expat in a foreign land.
Sorious Samura is Sierra Leone’s best-known investigative journalist, making documentaries for CNN, Channel
4 and BBC that have won two Emmy Awards and seem him described by The Independent as “the world’s
most fearless filmmaker”. Over the last 25 years, he’s tackled the toughest issues in the region including civil
war, starvation, AIDs, corruption, attitudes to homosexually and more.
However, it is clear that Sorious has grown tired of telling negative stories about Africa and, having moved to London many years earlier, begins to realise that he is only telling half of the truth about his continent. Desperate to change the narrative, he turns to his best friend and mentor, Sierra Leone’s iconic playwright, Charlie Haffner, and together they explore bringing a play to what Sorious believes to be the “Athens of West Africa” that will allow a new narrative to emerge regarding the country. However, this does not come without its difficulties, as Haffner allows his demons to cause a breakdown and destruction of their friendship along the way.
With the soul goal of creating an inspiring work of national theatre with the intention of restoring pride to a nation with a rich and amazing history, who we in the UK know mostly for corruption, poverty and disaster. With obvious adversity in culture and approach this project is a real strain on Charlie and Sorious’ friendship but they push to get the play ready and the curtain raised, which has pressured yet resolving repercussions. The civil unrest that exists within Sierra Leone seeps into this project, making it more formidable for Sorious than he thought possible. This film highlights the obstacles and pressure that surrounds any artist in Sierra Leone, and the struggle to get their work out there.
Dynamic, pacey, insightful and intimate, Sing, Freetown is a considered and stunning look into one country’s culture, and what might happen when two men from the same yet different backgrounds work together. Though not without their difficulties, what does emerge is something all the more beautiful for the journey that they have taken.
Sing, Freetown began its limited UK cinema release from Friday 25th June