A documentary about a dedicated Liberian environmental activist
Many people know little if anything about Liberia. If they do know its name, it is likely to be some hazy knowledge of its civil war (1989-2003), or think of it as that poor country in Africa that had a terrible Ebola outbreak (2014-2015). Perhaps they may even know that it was the first country in Africa to have a female elected head of state, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. But what they may not know, is that Liberia is a beautiful land, built on a foundation of rich, red earth, vibrant green rain forests, and resilient people.
Silas Siakor is a man who helped document the role that timber and illegal logging had played in the funding of conflict in Liberia. He won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2006 and established a non- governmental organization, the Sustainable Development Institute, where he and his staff continued to conduct research and advocate for the rights of Liberian people and the need to manage Liberia's resources sustainability and equitably. His passion and dedication are evident when you meet him, as is his pursuit of truth and justice.
"Silas", the documentary, recaps the history of conflict and then focuses on Silas, and his dedication to his work. Those who watch this film will get a sense of the quiet determination of Silas, of the passion that motivates him. We also get to meet and know his equally courageous and amazing wife, Marlay, who speaks about the challenges and joys of being a partner to such a committed individual. Anjali and Hawa take us on a journey that gives us insights into the life and agency of Silas, and his team of researchers, who use their courage and smart phone technology and software (TIMBY) to help document illegal activities in the forests and communities of remote Liberia.
The vibrancy of the cinematography transported me from my seat in the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto back to the hot and steamy landscape of Liberia, where I worked from 2007-2011. As the camera followed logging trucks along a road, and down paths in the rain forest to logging sites, I was overwhelmed by the images and the cascade of memories that came pouring back of my own four years of traveling around Liberia. Most audience members will not experience that, of course, but you will be humbled nonetheless by the landscape and the story of this remarkable place and remarkable man.
From the forests in Liberia to the streets of Toronto, Silas Siakor has traveled many long and difficult roads. He has done it with integrity, courage, and determination, and always with a sense that things can and should be better for Liberians. Seize the chance to see "Silas" and learn something about Liberia and Silas, about the dream of just and equitable uses of land and natural resources and about "ordinary" individuals such as Silas, who stand up for what is right.
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