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Trailer: Afro-Cubans and Sierra Leoneans Bridge The Gap in Doc 'They Are We'

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by Vanessa Martinez
April 22, 2013 8:39 PM
4 Comments
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They Are We - Still

How mind-blowing and fascinating is this upcoming documentary? Talk about bridging the gap! I came across an article from The Atlantic (recommended reading), written beautifully by Emma Christopher, director of They Are We, a film which documents how a family of Afro-Cubans in a remote village of Perico, Cuba learn of and become acquainted with their ancestors in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and vice-versa.

It was no easy task for Christopher, who, in her article, states the following regarding finding the Afro-Cubans' ancestors in an isolated village in Sierra Leone called Mokpangumba:

"Only by a long and arduous search, and with a great amount of luck, did my thousands of informants lead me here, where on my first visit the people looked at my screen in utter astonishment, said "they are we," and then joined in with the songs." According to the article, Mokpangumba's Chief, named Mabadu Pocawa, eagerly awaits the Cuban descendants along with the village townspeople, who are preparing to feast and welcome their long lost relatives for a week.

Christopher explains how a young girl named Josefa, was taken away from Sierra Leone as part of the Transatlantic trade to Cuba in the 1830's. Josefa lived into old age, and after being freed she taught

"her great-granddaughter Florinda her African heritage. Florinda in turn taught her grandson, whom she raised from infancy. He is Humberto Casanova, now himself a great-grandfather. It is Casanova and three of his friends for whom Pokawa and his people are waiting."

According to the documentary's Facebook page, the project is slated for an August release later this year. And it looks like the trip from Cuba  to Sierra Leone was granted and successful.

Here's more about the film:

Josefa held her village’s songs and dances in her heart. Captured in Africa, she treasured them as she was loaded into the gruesome hold of a slave ship and then sold as a beast of burden in Cuba. Toiling on a plantation, she taught the songs and dances to her children and grandchildren, words and rhythms that lost their original meanings but still resonated with the cadences of their stolen ide...ntity. Now, 160 years later, might those same songs and dances enable her descendants to make their way home?

They Are We tells the story of how Josefa’s descendants have kept some of their origins alive. It shows the incredible search for their African roots and then follows the two halves of the family as they try to overcome their problems—the Africans’ extreme poverty and the Cubans’ lack of freedom to travel—to meet again. It is a story of surviving the worst of human experience and how family ties can outlast just about anything. 

Watch the touching trailer below:


THEY ARE WE (Official Teaser) from Sergio Leyva Seiglie on Vimeo.

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4 Comments

  • willy | May 1, 2013 9:33 PMReply

    Can't wait to see the documentary, born and raise in Cuba I remember been at those parties,,, the smell of tobacco, rum and the rellentless beat of the drums are stuck forever in my mind, looking forward to see it.

  • Nsa Ntuk | April 24, 2013 7:13 PMReply

    I think this is fantastic! As a half Nigerian who recently went back to reconnect with my own roots as a young adult I hear "Wow at least you know where you come from." I would love to see more cross cultural interchange between the diaspora and West Africa. Especially Afircan-Americans when you go you will feel the connection even if you don't have specifics. Going back home to Nigeria has changed my life.

  • Aprile | May 29, 2013 11:57 PM

    NSA that is great...yes African Americans need to know who they are...not just we're mostly from West and Central Africa...

  • Ava | April 23, 2013 10:38 PMReply

    I am moved.

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