In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our staff favourites? Let us know your thoughts!
#88 - Liberia '77
For Jeff and his brother Andrew, 1970s Liberia was a childhood paradise of endless beaches, thick jungle and even a pet chimp. Their expat father’s photographs document not only their African experience but, unknowingly, a country and a people on the brink of civil war. Thirty years later, the brothers – now photographers themselves - return to Liberia to re-shoot their childhood paradise.
I found this film interesting from the first scene, when Jeff and Andrew first return to re-trace their Liberian childhood; you never expect them to encounter and uncover as much as they do. Jeff really wears his heart on his sleeve and both Jeff and Andrew strive to do as much as they can to restore a little hope to an area that for 20 years has known nothing but war.
It begins as a moving personal journey and quickly evolves into a larger social commentary as the filmmakers come face to face with the expectations of the people they left behind for a new life in Canada. Navigating the intersection between the personal and the political, the film asks captivating questions about Western impact on Africa and our responsibility as expatriates, as journalists, as witnesses and as humans.
What I found most compelling about this film was how loving and welcoming the locals and ex-workers were (except for the village witch doctor whom they were warned about but never actually met). Some of the villagers even remember their names, though they hadn’t seen the boys for 20 years. It was heartwarming to see how much the locals valued the era and their jobs before the civil war struck – life was good.
Liberia ‘77 is a must-see: it’s fun, hard hitting, and charming in all the right places. It’s a good place to start your Canadian film journey if you haven’t already.
"The film successfully brings together a number of story elements beyond the Tophams’ personal journey, including a look at a Liberian chimpanzee sanctuary, the history of the war torn region, and the importance of photographs." - (Jay Cheel, The Documentary Blog)
To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here.