One of the fortunate survivors of the devastating 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone declared, “Love is not afraid of death.” The 2018 Verite documentary “Survivors” provides audience members a candid glimpse at the frontlines of the fight to end the spread of Ebola throughout the small African country.
On September 12th, Lansana Mansaray (Barmmy Boy), one of four directors of the film traveled to Wheaton to screen his film in-person. The documentary, which is currently nominated for various film awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary, closely and personally follows the lives of several individuals affected by the Ebola outbreak that infected 8,704 Sierra Leoneans and killed 3,589 with untold emotional damage to communities, families, and individuals who survived.
For each person featured in “Survivors,” the audience receives a piercing glimpse at the terror Ebola yielded throughout the country. Though there is so much misery depicted in the beginning of the film, the inspiring and unanticipated outcome, reminds the audience of the incredible humanity and sense of community that Sierra Leoneans possessed. One recognizable quote from the film captures this sentiment. “Our heroes are people who make sacrifices we can see.” This powerful statement was spoken in defense of a dedicated ambulance driver who risked his own life many times to save others.
Mansaray’s commentary on his work after the viewing was equally intriguing as was his passion for the project evident as he retold his experience filming in such high-risk and often quarantined areas. “It was quite dangerous for us at that point, but we felt like we had to tell the story from a local point of view.” “Survivors” has brought Mansaray much recognition for his incredible deliverance as the director of photography. The Saturday following the screening, he led a public workshop at the Southside Cultural Center in Providence, sharing his filmmaking skills with those interested in them.
It is clear to see why “Survivors” has gained so much recognition since its release last year. The film respectfully illustrates the devastation Ebola rendered on the lives of so many, while also reinvigorating the sometimes forgotten essence of humanity that exists within communities fraught with already existing pain. The film closes off with one Sierra Leonean expressing his untouched perception of the tragedy and all that resulted from it. He said, “That is why we are here – to give meaning to life.”