Posted at 2:33 PM on April 8, 2009
by Euan Kerr
I spent a delightful half an hour on the phone yesterday with Louise Woehrle, the producer and co-director of the Minnesota-produced documentary "Pride of Lions."
The film is about the challenges and successes of the people of Sierra Leone in West Africa as they continue to recover from a brutal 12 year civil war.
Woehrle says it all started by chance when her brother, and eventual co-director, John Woehrle was asked by a student to accompany her on a trip to Sierra Leone to video tape her first meeting with her biological father. She laughs at how, after he said yes, he went out an bought a high end digital camera, which was so complicated a friend had to show him how to use it, but only after taping over all the buttons he should not touch.
John Woehrle was amazed at what he saw on that first trip. The country, a former British colony, was devastated: buildings stood in ruins, people who had been deliberately maimed during attacks struggled to survive, and a once successful agricultural community was barely limping along. There is also the legacy of an army of drugged child soldiers who committed atrocities, but who now live in the communities they once terrorized, dealing with their own psychological issues and continued drug usage
Despite all these difficulties, he found the people of Sierra Leone to be charming and open. He also found they were ready to forgive what happened and work hard to overcome the problems.
At first Woehrle thought about making a film about his student's story, but in discussions with Louise on his return he realized he wanted to tell the story of the people in the villages. He made more trips to West Africa and Louise and the rest of the production staff gathered archive material .
All of it has now been woven into an 82 minute doc looking at the roots of the war, and what it will take to overcome the problems.
The film will screen at 7.30 tomorrow night (April 9th) at the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights. It will then screen at the MSPIFF on Sunday April 26th at 3pm.
Louise Woehrle says she was amazed to learn there are 5,000 Sierra Leoneans in Minnesota. She says she hopes the film will encourage people to get involved in helping the people of one of the poorest countries in the world. She is currently working on screenings around the country and a shorter version for broadcast.
You can listen to our conversation below.
First, she described how the film came about: Listen
Then we talked about her hopes and plans for "Pride of Lions" Listen
I have been to Sierra Leone. I agree with so much of what you said about the people. It is one of the poorest counties and so much need. I look forward to seeing it on the 26th.