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Here Comes "sierrawood"!

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Welcome to 'Sierrawood's' Bai Bureh Goes to War

Concord Times (Freetown)
February 4, 2004
Posted to the web March 4, 2004

By Osman Benk Sankoh

It was Lans Gberie who is presently enjoying the earthly pleasures of living a stone throw to Heaven that once introduced me to the catchphrase, 'Nollywood.' Apparently, the Canadian based Sierra Leonean scholar was talking about the Nigerian movie industry which has made Aki and Pawpaw, Ramzy Noah, Genevieve and Omotola to name but a few, household names in Sierra Leone on to the extent that some 419ers could just wake up, fake a convoy, promise bringing the midgets to the stadium, collect several thousands of Leones and then disappear.

While Nollywood or Hollywood and the several Chinese and Indian movies have firmly cemented themselves in this business, some good Samaritan Sierra Leoneans have decided to follow suit and one man that has answered to this clarion call is the robust, not too tall and black figure of Rtd. Major Abu Noah.

Noah, they say is a man of man firsts, a John- the -Baptist fellow that ultimately prepares the way for others to follow.

Certainly, a man of his age, he must have gone through the good, bad and ugly sides of life. A closer look at his slate says Naoh was a ' Soldier's soldier,' he had his good times army.

The bad: He has darkened the walls of the great Pademba road prisons and the experience of prison life, with no hopes of seeing the light of a free day is nothing one would want to borrow from the Rtd. Major.

And for the ugly side, the decade long civil war might have had an adverse effect on his business but like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Noah has bounced back and he is fast making inroads to what you and I would soon come to know as, " Sierrawood." Noah is not all about security business; at least he has spent several years keeping watch in our offices and homes while we engage in other businesses or snore.

He is not also all about publishing our own folklore but like those in Hollywood or Nollywood , Noah has made a magic moment ( apologies BBC) for himself and the entire nation when he removed fresh crisps of Leones- sorry, dollars from his pocket to produce Bai Bureh Goes To War, don't ask how much it cost him I am not sure, apart from the posters that are already out, many have seen the movie. However, yours truly was privy to rub shoulders last Friday with our own Vice President Solomon Berewa, former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Peter Penfold, guys from Ovation Magazine and several others at the premier launching of the movie. You may have loved to see the great Omotola and Genevieve at Lagoonda on their might but Zack Orgi, Fred Armata and Olu Jacobs made a better representation that dwindled the infinite desire to pose for autographs and photographs with these ladies Noah who religiously worships the, " there can never be a successful man without a woman on his side," buzzwords certainly had his wife by his side with whom he graciously shares the accolade of the night.

It all happened at the Lagoonda Entertainment Complex and apart from the excitement to set eyes on the film itself, the occasion also created an opportunity for the invitees to de dressed in resplendent attires amidst sparkling white dentitions and the 'joie de vivre' (dazzling) of beautiful smiles that could have better served as a befitting medication for the heartbroken.

The cool and cozy air that was escaping from the shores of the Aberdeen beaches right into Lagoonda also had a major battle to contend with, it was a mêlée (conflict) of the elegant perfumes trying to outwit each other in this business of, ' mine is the best.' However, we finally settled down after our VP arrived ' promptly ' late and made the excuse of, " we were on another meeting discussing very important national business." First thought as we settled down to devour what awaits us was, the movie was going to be the exact of what you and I (that is, if you were fortunate enough to have read History) had read from books written by Dr.

Joe A. D Alie, Magbailay Fyle and several other Historians. I longed for the scenes where Bai Bureh, the great warrior of Kasse could make himself invincible after giving the British army a running nose.

In fact, I can't wait to see Bai Bureh repelling the invading British army and the latter, in return, placing a hundred pounds price tag on his head. But I got it all wrong. Was Noah trying to rewrite the History books? Has he thrown his intellect and the potency of our rich culture to the dustbin for the almighty pounds sterling, has he done this, has he done that? These and indeed, several other questions rallied for space in my small head as I sat there watching the projector roll.

I needed instant questions but they were nowhere to be found and it was only after the last scene and the uncontrollable rounds of applause, which climaxed the occasion that I realized that Noah was not rewriting the tale of Bai Bureh as, had been told by Joe A.D. Alie and others.

The answer is, Noah and his Nigerian compatriots portrayed the great temne- loko warrior living and ruling his people in peacetime. No wonder, the chairperson for the occasion, minister Shirley Gbujama described it, " a wonderful specimen of human kind." Bai Bureh Goes to War depicts a warrior who was ready and willing to listen to the hopes and aspirations of his people. It does not portray him as a bloodthirsty dictatorial warlord or as one our former colonial masters had portrayed an outlaw that rebelled against British colonial rule for a simple hut order than a house. What Noah and his Director, Armata did was to tell a story about a warrior figure who believes in consultation. It portrays a Kasse whose subjects were more than ready to sacrifice one of their daughters, a virgin for that matter in order to appease the gods.

The rich culture of our Bondo society and the role of the Ya Digba came out distinctly and what it also does in the movie was to append a significant stamp on womanhood and the powers they had in the then democratic process. Famous Nigerian actress Omotola is the Ya Digba. She sits with the Council of Elders, discuss issues of interest and serves as a transmitter of messages between this body and the ageing Bai Bureh. Please you should be in a rush now to secure a copy and see her dance and sing in temne, " c-yema-wol- o" (we want to dance).

Genievieve is Yainkain and she was more than willing to escape from her captors to be sacrificed to the gods in order for Kasse to go to war and reign supreme.

Though they were making their debuts in this kind of business, the Sierra Leonean actors and actresses were also equal to the task at hand.

Jerry Fofana , the unknown warrior perfected his character so much and though he was finally defeated in battle by the great Bai Bureh himself, he was however a kind of figure that might have carbon-copied the Energizer advert, 'never say die.' Instead of cowardly retreating from battle, he fought with Bai Bureh until the last atom of his strength was 'strangulated.' What came out clearly, apart from the theme of the movie itself is the beautiful scenery of this country and our rich culture. Let me spare you the explanation until you secure you own copy but this, if I must add, " is a masterpiece." You may not like Noah because of one reason or another but he has set the pace with his Bai Bureh Goes to War. Take your time to see the Joseph - the dreamer -like- Bai Bureh figure always waking up in the middle of the night after another nightmare, take your time to see the Kasse warriors ready to sacrifice everything they had to defend Kasse, take some of your precious time to see what the unknown warrior and his brand of warriors can do and take your time again to join the masked dance in this epoch making "Bai Bureh Goes to War." For me, I have but am still not yet satisfied, I need more and believe me, the Rtd Major and all the actors and actresses deserve a cup of palm-wine.

Need I say more?
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