When asked to describe Liberia in one word, many people choose to portray Liberia as being “war torn”.
But the war is over. Gone are the days where Liberia is seen as a broken structure that was once thrown off the face of the earth and has now been abruptly placed back.
Liberia has been seen through the eyes of women, children, men and boys who know the days and nights of poverty, frustrating infrastructure, unseen development and is now seen through the eyes of those who want to make their country a better place.
It is upon this vision that Kriterion Monrovia, a student-run project at the University of Liberia, coordinated a 3 day film festival and two day workshop from Feb 21-23, 2014 to some of the film creators in Liberia.
Pandora Hodge, project coordinator for Kriterion Monrovia, described how hosting a film festival for 3 days helped encourage film students to come out and show Liberia’s real image through film.
“What we are trying to do is show different sides of Liberia. Many times when people show movies and documentaries they mostly focus on the war. We are trying to leave from that part of it and show that the war has been over for almost 11 years now. We want to show the other side of Liberia and what the young people are doing to help make their environment and culture better and to create something more fun and relaxed,” she said.
On the first day of the festival and film training workshop, 5 different workshops on culture identity, advanced editing, marketing of your movie and acting were held free of charge in different locations. Some big film related names such as videographer Derrick Snyder, choreographer Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, actor Omanza Shaw, iconic Liberian cultural figure Kona Khasu Sr. and Hollywood actor Jared Benjamin Lambert were amongst the trainers.
“[What] Kriterion is trying to do is give people the feeling of an outhouse cinema, but in order to do that we want to make people aware of it first. We are also promoting a lot of filmmakers and are offering workshops. We want to improve the works of these local and international facilitators who have good knowledge in these areas as well. We’ve partnered with the Accountability Lab who gives training to young Liberian film makers,” Pandora added.
After the completion of the two days of workshops, Kriterion held screenings of Liberian feature films such as “Smell no taste”, “Cry of the pepper bird”, “A story of Liberia” and “The first grader”. Students from the workshop were also able to showcase their work.
“People are getting aware of Liberian films and putting them on the front page,” says Pandora. “We want people to present their movies not because we want to get money out of it (everything we are doing is free of charge) but we are creating an awareness that, today or tomorrow, people will know the producer and will want to buy your movie.”