Monrovia – After featuring in dozens of Nollywood films, actor, producer and director Artus Frank, continues his vision of producing quality films in his homeland, Liberia, with the release this week, of Breaking the Bush, tackling the controversy surrounding the Sande society bush.
Going over film reels, after the film wrapped production recently, Frank says he is aware of the controversy but was careful not to step on any toes.
“I know some people may be concerned that the movie exposes our culture, but that’s not the case. The movie does not go deep into our culture norms and values. We left it at a point where we know the movie is going to be loved by Liberians, they will appreciate the positive message that this can happen. We respect it, we love it, but we should not be forced into it.”
The idea for the story came to Frank back in 2016 when his daughter, Ardiya, who is a central figure in the film, was between six and seven-years-old.
“I thought about doing the movie then but felt that she was too young. So, we decided to wait until she got a bit older. But she grew so fast, so we decided to shoot the film now.”
Breaking the Bush tells the powerful story of a battle of wits between the Kru and Vai tribes over traditional values bordering on the sensitive nature of the Sande Bush.
A rich mother of the Kru tribe is totally against her son, seeing a boy from the Vai tribe. Moved against the son’s insistence, the mother pushes her own son out of the home.
The son is forced to move in with the love, only to lose her to death. But not before she delivers his child.
The mother goes to great lengths to block her son’s progress, telling any and everyone, not to do business with him.
Left to raise his daughter, the young man is heartbroken when a school security guard attempts to rape his child, who insists on going to live with her grandmother after the incident.
At the grandmother’s home, the young girl is forced to go into the Sande society bush, after being forced into an early marriage. It is there that the film explores the annoying intricacies of a practice that has seen Liberian go through some turbulent traditional contradictions.
For Frank, it was important that the film respects the cultures while hitting home the message that no one should be forced into the society bush. “We are not trying to portray any of the tribes in a wrong way. We are not looking at the tradition, but we are looking at the people.”
Adds Frank, “Love is a freedom of choice. So, we are not bent on portraying any of our culture in a negative way or form. We made sure that we dealt with the story in a positive way, but the cultural aspect is done in a way that promotes our cultural heritage and our people.”
The convincing performances of the actors is a clear indication that the individuals that portray the characters were spot on.
This is where Frank says, the film draws the line. “Trying to see that we are going against the norms and values of what people are against or for. Gender ministry is against circumcision and violence, but then again, they have some guidelines and regulations that they shouldn’t force a person into the Sande bush, the person should go in willingly. So, some of those things we try to keep it on a cool level in the film – and maintain the cultural aspects.”
Frank has high hopes that Liberians will embrace the movie’s controversial theme, without reservations. “Liberians are reacting positively, except that they want to see the movie that does not expose our culture, especially when it comes to circumcision matter involving our women and our girls. We did not show anything about the Sande Bush, we showed them going into the Sande bush but not the coming out. That’s why we call it the Breaking of the Bush. So, we didn’t go into details about what happens in the Sande Bush.”