"In my films I try to create positive communication between parents and their children"
|Adams Sie, filmmaker (Courtesy of Cheikh Seck)
My first meeting with Adams Sie dates back to two years in a screening organised by a film festival called “Le Festival du Film de Quartier”. In fact I should say that I met his piece of work entitled "Silent Voices", rather than Adams Sie himself. But from the way he directed the movie I could perceive the seed of a great director in a young filmmaker. The movie "Silent Voices" talked about Street Children. In this movie he addresses the sore plight of the homeless boys spending their life in the outskirts of the city, their problems and the way they were fighting daily to find what to eat.
Adams was born in Sierra Leone in 1978, from a Senegalese father and a Sierra Leonean mother. He belongs to the highly religious brotherhood of the Sie family, the second most powerful religious brotherhood in Senegal.
His early years were spent in Sierra Leone where he started school. One of the cherished memories from that period is that he remembers their teacher calling him ‘the-boy-who-know-the-book’. Saying this he laughed, explaining that the teacher always called him like that whenever he met him in the school yard or in their busy streets. The teacher certainly expressed his admiration before a boy who always managed to answer his questions about the books he thought. When I asked him why he strived to know his lesson he answered: “I never really gave it a thought but I think I have always wanted to be outstanding among the many kids that were in our classroom at that time. I hated being among those who went unnoticed”
This desire is certainly one of the factors that explain his success as a filmmaker. But I would not like to jump ahead at this stage of the story. So, I am going to try and keep up with the chronology of the facts in the life and work of Adams Sie.
Adams was barely 15 when his father, wanting him to get acquainted with his Senegalese family, sent him to Senegal. The next years of his adolescence were going to be spent under the careful supervision and education of one of the most eminent persons in Senegal who turned out, as he was to find later, to be his grandfather. “I owe everything to this man. He is the one who trained me, educated me and made me what I am.”
|Street child (scene from Silent Voices)
Living with the man many Senegalese people believe to be a saint, opened Adams mind to social and religious issues and helped him better understand human actions and motivations. In fact many people came to pay visits to his grandfather to seek for his benediction or advice or even material help. He never failed to bring a positive answer to their requests.
One day the Old Man called his cabinet chief and ordered him to find a school for Adams, declaring "It's time for this boy to goto a French school". Adams told me that he was very surprised by the decision of the old man. He never thought that his grandfather, such a virtuous and pious Moslem, was thinking of sending him to a French school. This was how he went to the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar where he stayed for two years before joining the Dakar Media Centre to learn about video production. After a year he brilliantly graduated and started working on his own.
I think that one of the best qualities I find in the personality of Adams Sie is his keen understanding of social problems and his ability to use his camera to point out the disease the African society in general and the Senegalese one in particular, suffer from.
In Silent Voices, one of his first films, he denounces the plight of the homeless kids who haunt beaches and parks and who should be at school. The overall mood of this movie is very sad but Adams manages to leave us with some hope at the end, with the head of the gang finally managing to leave the streets and return to the home he had deserted because his father had married a young woman who bullied him. One of the best parts of the movie is where this boy talks about his hatred of robbery, saying that he prefers to carry goods or luggage for people to get coins and earn his living decently. The question that rises in the spectator’s mind at the end of the film is: ”What are the community’s plans to solve the problems of street children?”
Another great film by Adams is Rama which is a drama exploring the theme of child sexual abuse. The Young filmmaker explains here that he wanted to make this film to point out the fact that child sexual abuse is such painful issue that people always associate it with external factors. The offender is always seen as some one stranger to the family. “But”, he went on, ”What if it happens within the family? If it happens within the family people do not want to say it out. If the offender is a brother, uncle or father, the natural tendency of the family is to hide it. These are the pains our society suffers from. Their names are child sexual abuse, drugs, female genital cutting, alcohol and such kind of problems.”
|Adams Sie and Oumy (scene from Oumy and Me)
Oumy and Me
My real meeting with Adams Sie took place at the Media Centre where I had been invited at the screening of four films produced by former students. Among these films was ‘Oumy and Me’. This was the first time that I saw the issue of Albino social integration being explored. Before that I had never heard of Albino people being victims of marginalisation and stigmatisation from the other members of their own community. In fact it is an ancient belief that says that Albino people associate with the devil or they are impure as shows their imperfect skin. Traditionally this kind of melanin problem is associated with evil. But I think that, more practically, people are not ready to bring this kind of skin or genes within their family, having kids with an Albino woman. Whatever the case Adams Sie raises in this film all the negative perception people have about the albinos. The film won the Audience prize of the “Festival du Film de Quartier” and made Adams Sie better known to the Senegalese audience. I think that this is where his career took a rising turn and his born talent was going to be confirmed with the production of Sumsum Saba (the Sumsum addicted).
"Alcohol abuse has always been a major theme that I wanted to explore in a way that would set examples to our youth. A way to tell them that we do not need anything like that to develop our emerging countries."
In Sumsum Saba Adams explores the destructive forces of Alcohol and the ravages it causes in our community turning valuable people in useless human wreckages living at the outskirts of life like old boats wasting away on a forgotten beach. The film stars a former aggregated Professor whose life got ruined by alcohol abuse. The most poignant aspect of the film is that this former professor, now a rogue with no home, children or wife whatsoever, has managed to keep a certain dignity that permeates the way he talks and his bearing. When you hear this man talk inside a room you may think that’s some great VIP speaking; yet when you set eye on him you find it hard to match the voice to the rest of the body. This guy and the other ghost-like characters in the film are systematically being destroyed by Sumsum, which creates fast dependence from the user. They know that this locally brewed highly intoxicating liquid is killing them but they cannot quit. Therefore the spectator is there helpless before so much misery watching as the former professor loses his sight to Sumsum, a former pilot loses his front teeth, a distinguished woman who used to live in France loses her life as she died before Adams finished shooting the movie. In this movie Adams Sie's denouncing voice turns into an anguished interrogation in the end; as if it were saying: “How long is the community going to sit down and watch as Sumsum, which is illegally brewed in clandestine places, continues its devastating action on valuable members of our society? Sumsum Saba won the best president’s prize.
|A little girl victim of genital mutilation (scene from Cutting the Rose)
Cutting the Rose
The same sensitive voice can be heard in Cutting the Rose which explores the painful issue of female genital mutilation. As the producer of Cutting the Rose Adams perceives female genital mutilation from the angle of the victims. After undergoing this dreadful traditional operation, women suffer from lots of diseases ranging from psychological trauma to Festus disease and menstruation problems, and sometimes, death due to infection. The issue here is all the more difficult as female genital cutting is an ancestral practice in certain parts of Africa. In some African tribes women are considered impure by men when they are not circumcised. For Adams Sie the approach for people to give up these traditional practices should be an educational one. Issuing laws punishing people caught in the practice does not solve the problem. To find a definite solution to the issue you have to help people understand that female genital mutilation is having some negative impact on the community. Helping them understand through sensitization and showing them the direct negative consequences of this practice on their own community members, might be best. This is why Tostan, an NGO that has achieved significant results in the fight against genital mutilation, aims at expanding the type of education it delivers to the former circumcisers in the whole country. The film ends with this circumciser, an aging woman, admitting that now they have stopped this practice due to the education and formative action of Tostan.
Women in Politics
Are women really emancipated? This is the question that Adams Sie seems to ask himself in one of his last films called Women in Politics. For the young filmmaker, women are still poorly represented in the decision making places of our country and the world in general. Till now few women are active in the high spheres of the states of the world. And as he says: "As long as people will be saying women, as if they were a different race, the problem will still be there to face". Yet when women overcome social barriers they can be very efficient representatives and even better defenders of the community interests. In this film Adams Sie shows that the real problems women have to face to emancipate themselves is the negative perception of their plight and the lack of understanding from a certain male supremacy that want to keep its interests as ‘Chasse gardée’
War was the last point I raised in the interview with Adams Sie. From the minute he started talking about war, the mood of the conversion changed. It was plain that he was deeply affected by war. As any Sierra Leonean boy, he has seen war and suffered from it. And he said: ”War is an issue that I do not like to discuss…. We…We should never use war to solve our problems, for violence only leads to more violence. Priority should be given to dialogue and negotiation. People should be patient and tolerant towards each other. War is something that I hate.’