Posted by Michael Duffield in Uncategorized Edit

Sliding Liberia has all the elements of a classic surf film - stunning photography, a great soundtrack and the obligatory scene of surfers loading their boards onto a beat-up car, ready to head to the waves. But then there are the machine guns, the trash heaps, the bombed-out buildings. There are tales of people fleeing a rebel army through the jungle, of children surviving on a diet of leaves when food ran out, of relatives killed or lost.

The creators of Sliding Liberia have done a masterful job using a surf film lens to give us a behind-the-headlines look at Liberia. It doesn’t offer in-depth investigations or political analysis, and is by no means a detailed profile of the country. Instead it allows the starring surfers, and the cameras that follow them, to look and listen, and to be aware of the country surrounding them and the people who live there. The result is series of vignettes that convey a sense of what it is like to have your country descend into ruin, and of how long and difficult the journey is on the road to recovery.

Among the stories told is that of Dorothy Schellart, who runs a school for orphaned children. Typical of the interviewees, she betrays little despair over her situation. She maintains a hopeful, determined attitude despite her role as leader of a school filled with parentless children who were forced to personally witness war’s full horror. She works through an organization called The Good Samaritan Fellowship Inc. based in Monrovia.

Other stories tell of families forced to flee, of times of hunger, of exile. All the stories broadcast hope for continued peace and the possibility of greater prosperity to come. Underlying each narrative is a sense of openness, a readiness to move forward the way the surfers move forward to meet the waves, to take on what comes. Surfing creates bonds between the Americans and their Liberian friends while it creates the metaphor for the Liberian people and their rising to meet the future.

In the end, Sliding Liberia is an entertaining and beautifully filmed movie. The surf scenes are delightful to watch, and the scenes of life and of the war in Liberia convey the desperation of the situation without overwhelming the viewer. I watched the film with children age seven to eleven, and they found it as engrossing as I. They also, to varying degrees, could grasp what I think is the truest reason to see this film: It shows a glimpse of a place in this world where life is just too hard, and that in this place, there are people just like you and me. That is something we should always remember.

Sliding Liberia

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