Dakar to Port Loko: Perspectives from West Africa
This wide-ranging, richly discussible documentary provides an unparalleled opportunity to experience everyday West African life and viewpoints from the ground level. The film presents a sensitive set of interviews with a variety of engaging West Africans and allows them to speak for themselves about the everyday realities of their lives and the effects on them of the economic, political, and ecological issues confronting the region and the wider world. Filmmaker Nathaniel Cogley proves to be an ideal interlocutor, drawing unrehearsed and thoughtful commentary from villagers, barbers, butchers, market vendors, hunters, craftsmen, officials, and others in Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone.
Dakar to Port Loko: Perspectives from West Africa is divided into four parts, each exploring a different country and a different set of issues. The film is specifically designed for classroom use. It avoids the biased and the sensationalist commentary that so often characterize documentaries on Africa, instead focusing solely on the Africans’ own perspectives and opinions. The film’s open-ended presentation will stimulate thought, analysis, and discussion in a wide variety of classes in African studies, economic development issues, cultural anthropology, and Third World studies. It was produced by Nathaniel Cogley.
Adding to the film’s educational appeal, the DVD was completely authored by the filmmaker and features some of the best contemporary West African music available. It comes with an accompanying set of discussion questions that highlights some of the key issues and concerns covered in the film.
Part One: Views on U.S. Foreign Policy; Dakar, Senegal
One year after September 11, 2001, images of both the United States and Osama Bin Laden criss-cross the vibrant and energetic streets of Dakar. As the capital of a democratic, pro-Western, 90% Islamic country, individual opinions here truly represent the widest of spectrums. In their own words, Senegalese air their views on United States foreign policy, September 11, Osama Bin Laden, President George W. Bush, and former President Bill Clinton. Runtime: 16 minutes.
Part Two: How Do You Make Your Dalasi?; Serekunda, The Gambia
With a GDP per capita of $278 per year (76¢ per day), The Gambia, like most other West African countries, ranks near the bottom of nearly all of the world´s economic indexes. Nevertheless, visitors to Serekunda´s sprawling shops and market places are likely to be surprised at the vibrancy of economic and entrepreneurial activity. While poverty remains a fact of life for most Gambians, even a modest amount of dalasis (Gambia´s local currency) must be earned through constant engagement with the market place. A perfect complement to dry economic statistics, a variety of small-scale entrepreneurs in The Gambia describe, in their own words, how they “make their dalasi.” Runtime: 20 minutes.
Part Three: Community Development; Jemberem, Guinea-Bissau
In the remote Cantanhez Forest region of southern Guinea-Bissau, a number of community-based conservation projects seek to provide both protection of the natural environment as well as economic development to local communities. The film examines the successes and challenges of such projects and presents commentary from a variety of local actors, including the director of a community radio station, the vice-president of a local women´s association, the director of a small-scale loan scheme, a government forestry worker, a hunter, a local chief, and many others. The film includes rare footage of Africa´s westernmost chimpanzee population and explores their complex interactions with local communities. There is also a charming and impromptu dance performance by local children. Runtime: 34 minutes.
Part Four: Recovering from Civil War; Freetown and Port Loko, Sierra Leone
From March 1991 to January 2002, Sierra Leone engaged in one of the most horrific and devastating civil wars of modern times. By the war´s conclusion, an estimated 50,000 people had been killed, 20,000 had suffered amputations, and more than 2,000,000 had been displaced. Nevertheless, due to a negotiated peace process, the vast majority of former rebels were granted amnesty and began a process of being disarmed and reintegrated back into society. Filmed in December 2002, less than one year after the end of the civil war, this powerful segment captures both amputees´ and former rebels´ reflections on their experiences during the war, their thoughts about each other, and their hopes and concerns for the future. Runtime: 25 minutes.