‘Silas’ Screens in EuroLiberian Film Festival


“Silas”, a documentary about Liberian renowned natural resource campaigner, Silas Siakor, is screening at the EuroLiberian Film Festival at different locations across Liberia this week.

The documentary about the winner of the 2006 Goldman Environmental Prize features Siakor’s advocacies for customary land right, rural communities’ right to consent over concessions, and his work in fighting corruption across the natural resources sector of Liberia.

Shot over five years and shuffles between Siakor’s personal life and experiences, and his work as a campaigner, the film reveals the efforts he and the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) put in to uncover scandals such as the Private Use Permit (PUP) scandal that rocked the country in 2013. It extends back to the days of the civil war, where natural resources, including forest resources, funded Liberia’s deadly civil war that killed 250,000 people. It exposes the magnitude of implication of having laws violated and regulations flouted.

The 80-minute film was directed by Canadian Anjali Nayar and Ghanaian Hawa Essuman and has screened in a number of festivals in Europe and America.

The screening of the documentary is part of the 2018 EuroLiberian festival, which is being sponsored by the European Union as part of its efforts to promote cultural heritage and the creative arts, held under the theme: “Human Rights and Cultural Heritage”. The event is meant to showcase Liberian, African and European films.

The festival will witness the screening of films from other parts of Africa and countries of the European Union.

Some of the other films screening at the festival are a 2015 “Understanding kills Ebola”, documentary about how communal participation helped end the deadly epidemic, and “The Land Beneath our Feet”, a 2014 documentary with 1920s footage showing the Firestone land-grab.

After the screening of Silas, three SDI panelists—James Otto, Nora Bowier and Ali Kaba—took questions from an enthusiastic audience on Friday at the William V.S. Tubman High School on 12th Street.

Otto emphasized that the audience needed to understand the importance of the human rights themes of the film, not the people in it.

Kaba urged the audience the support the passage of the Land Rights Act, currently before the National Legislature, that recognizes customary land rights that will guarantee the right of mainly rural communities over the land they solely depend on.

Customary land right is recognized in the Land Rights Act currently before the Legislature for passage into law. SDI and other local and international nongovernmental organizations like Land Rights Now (http://www.landrightsnow.org/en/home/) are pushing for the passage of the bill under the President George Weah administration.

Bowier reminded the audience about the connection between land rights and equitable benefits of natural resources, and cultural heritage the festival celebrates. She said people could not talk about heritage when they have no land.

“We want people, not only in the rural communities where we work, but also people in Monrovia…to understand the work we do why we do the work we do,” Bowier told this reporter on the margins of the panel discussion. “It is very important that the young people, students, who are about 60 percent or so of our population become aware of how National resource management is critical to the country and their lives are stake if the resources of this country are not managed,” she added.

“It is also important how land rights, which we pushing for, have implications for economic growth, have implications for peace and stability. We kind of doing this work quietly around rural communities and maybe at the national scene probably engaging with policy makers, but our work is not really made visible and people don’t really understand how the whole natural resources sector even impacted the war, how it is going to affect our peace if we don’t take care.

“I think the film will also help us to gain popular support towards what we are doing, and we need more people to join our advocacy, especially when we push for certain policy change, when we bring certain reports to national scenes. We need people to know what it means for our country and I think this film will help.”

Silas will also screen in West Point, Paynesville and the New Kru Town suburbs of Monrovia, and in Kakata, Margibi County up to Thursday.

There are plans with funding partners to ensure the film screens at other locations in the countryside and communities affected by land-related concessions, the film directors say.

Report by James Harding Giahyue