GFI @ the Sierra Leone International Film Festival

How a chance encounter turned into an uncommon opportunity to support Sierra Leone’s first-ever international film festival

We’ve always invested in Africa.   GrantsFilm exhibitions.  Time.  It’s been one of the many beating hearts, since our founding, that has kept the Global Lens film series, and the Initiative, alive.

A few months ago, outside a very crowded bar in San Francisco, Kieran Ridge, advisory board member of the Palo Alto Film Festival—one of our newest partners—had the insight to introduce us to someone with a very similar commitment to Africa:  Banker White, of WeOwnTV.  You may recognize the name, as a few years ago, Banker directed a documentary about a music innovation in Freetown called the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars.

We had an instant synergy with Banker that lent itself to a natural conversation, and a revelation that Sierra Leone was planning to launch its first-ever international film festival.  We already had a nascent partnership in West Africa with the Imagine Institute (via Gaston Kabore, one of our board members), but Sierra Leone was a nation with which we hadn’t yet made contact.  And so, without hesitation, we asked what we could do to help.  And with an equal speed, Banker said quite simply that a contribution of Global Lens films would help the most.

Banker White

Banker White

Months later (and in a few short days from now), the inaugural Sierra Leone International Film Festival is launching under the guidance of residents of Freetown, and leadership of Alfred Turay  and independent producer, Layna Fisher.  In a few more days, the Festival will take some of our films “on the road” for rural community screenings.  And thanks to an unexpected introduction, we, with our very small contribution, will have a minor role in an important history.



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