The topic of bridging the gap between Africa and the Americas is one of main interest to this site; it is a subject that fuels our passion in regards to the African diaspora. Therefore, it’s no wonder we have been eagerly anticipating the fascinating new documentary They Are We, which follows the journey to the encounter between an Afro-Cuban family and their African ancestors in Sierra Leone.
They Are We, directed by Emma Christopher,held an exclusive premiere in Havana, Cuba earlier this month. And according to its Facebook page, Theywill premiere stateside on the festival circuit next month at the San Diego Black Film Festival (although its full slate hasn’t been unveiled), which runs January 30 – February 2, 2014.
We profiled the documentary back in April of this year, when an article on the film from The Atlantic, written by director Christopher, was published. Christopher recounted that the reunion between the not-so-distant relatives wasn’t an easy task. She had stated that “only by a long and arduous search, and with a great amount of luck, did my thousands of informants lead me here, where on my first visit the people looked at my screen in utter astonishment, said “they are we,” and then joined in with the songs.”
To recap on the piece….. the Chief of Mokpangumba (the village in Sierra Leone) named Mabadu Pocawa, eagerly awaits the Cuban descendants along with the village townspeople, who are preparing to feast and welcome their long lost relatives for a week.
Christopher explains how a young girl named Josefa, was taken away from Sierra Leone as part of the Transatlantic trade to Cuba in the 1830’s. Josefa lived into old age, and after being freed she taught “her great-granddaughter Florinda her African heritage. Florinda in turn taught her grandson, whom she raised from infancy. He is Humberto Casanova, now himself a great-grandfather. It is Casanova and three of his friends for whom Pokawa and his people are waiting.”
Here’s an official synopsis:
Josefa held her village’s songs and dances in her heart. Captured in Africa, she treasured them as she was loaded into the gruesome hold of a slave ship and then sold as a beast of burden in Cuba. Toiling on a plantation, she taught the songs and dances to her children and grandchildren, words and rhythms that lost their original meanings but still resonated with the cadences of their stolen ide…ntity.
Now, 160 years later, might those same songs and dances enable her descendants to make their way home?
They Are We tells the story of how Josefa’s descendants have kept some of their origins alive. It shows the incredible search for their African roots and then follows the two halves of the family as they try to overcome their problems—the Africans’ extreme poverty and the Cubans’ lack of freedom to travel—to meet again. It is a story of surviving the worst of human experience and how family ties can outlast just about anything.