This spotlight on the impassioned labor of Liberian activist Silas Kpanan ‘Ayoung Siakor illustrates the upheaval of African villages stripped of their native land by corporate ownership. As deforestation runs rampant across once fertile ground, communities band together to uncover their own government's injustices and salvage their livelihood.
Hawa Essuman and Anjali Nayar's moving documentary Silas tells a necessary story of modern-day colonization under the guise of economic stimulus. Providing an intimate look into the life and tireless labor of Liberian environmental activist Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor, the film depicts the power of limited resources when placed into the right hands. Through a single smartphone application, small African communities can draw attention to the blatant lies they are continuously told by their government; the effectiveness of this technology is entirely dependent on every user reporting the injustices occurring in their own backyards. This communal participation is prompted by illegally issued permits that have caused the deforestation of over a quarter of Liberian land and native communities. As a result, the people that once thrived on the agricultural opportunities of those fertile lands are no longer able to sustain themselves. In attempts to pressure accountability from politicians and stop the destruction of the natural resources that serve as the lifeblood of rural villages, local leaders fight to ensure that their citizens' lives will no longer lie in the hands of massive corporations. Footage that combines government reports with personal narratives of activists and affected community members illustrates a disheartening reality that is too often purposefully hidden or naively ignored.
A born lover of stories and imagery, Kenyan actress-turned-director Hawa Essuman attributes her the origins of her passion for the arts to the first film she saw as a child, Star Wars (1977). For Essuman, film stands as the one medium that allows one to combine all other art forms and craft every detail of storytelling and refusing to label any storyteller into a single genre or category, as she believes the art should always be fluid. Beyond filmmaking, Anjali Nayar's background is truly one of a scholar and technologist. She has a Masters in Environmental Management from the University of Oxford and Graduate degree in space science from the International Space University. She has also founded This Is My Backyard, a collection of digital tools for activists to safely report on social issues.
Sponsored by Canadian Studies Center at UW, Consulate General of Canada
- Director: Hawa Essuman, Anjali Nayar
- Premiere Status: Seattle
- Country: Canada, South Africa, Kenya
- Year: 2017
- Running Time: 80 minutes
- Producer: Steven Markovitz, Anjali Nayar
- Screenplay: Anjali Nayar
- Cinematographers: Joan Poggio, Anjali Nayar
- Editors: Andrew MacCormack, Roderick Deogrades
- Music: Brendan Canning, Ohad Benchetrit
- Website: Official Film Website
- Filmography: Essuman:; Soul Boy (2010); ; Nayar:; Gun Runners (2016); Kenya Rising (2012)
- Language: English, Liberian English
- Has Subtitles: Yes
- Format: DCP
- International Sales: Cinephil