Cinema is a play of shadows. If one follows the well-known allegory of Plato's cave, according to which man only sees the shadow of reality, then film would be the shadow of another shadow. The Bible talks about the shadow of St. Peter healing the sick, Masaccio painted it in a church in Florence. Ancient magical traditions see the shadow as an external manifestation of the soul. Its rich metaphorical connotations are used across the arts. It was the play of shadows that first drew my attention, when I was exploring Freetown by night.
In thirty years, I had not been back to the city where I spend a part of my adolescence. Since then many things had happened. Most notably, the 11 years of civil war that ended only a decade ago. As a result of the war Freetown's population significantly increased, but the city's infrastructure never adapted to this demographic change. At night he chronic lack of electricity means the city is plunged in semi-darkness. The only light sources are the many cars and motorcycles circulating and the pale light of mobile phones that are used by pedestrians to find their way in the dark streets. As I was going around the city I became interested in a group of people at a street corner gathered under one of the few street lamps. They were there every night, living from handouts and sleeping rough. Each one of them was facing enormous physical and mental challenges. Among them where my protagonists: Suley, Lama, David, Alfred, Shero and Sarah.
Something in their world reminded me of the universe of Beckett: the cosmic darkness of a stage, the absence of life's ornamentations, the waiting for a salvation that won't come, a sense of timelessness; and the fact that, like in a Beckett play they have their tragedy written on their body. I felt that to get close to my protagonists I should concentrate on understanding them physically rather then psychologically or biographically. As they live as outsiders at the periphery of society, I feel that their lives reveal our human condition more truthfully. They understand the extreme margins of our existence. Outsiders are often people who are scarred, who need to create their own relational ecosystem with other 'outsiders' in order to survive and more often than not there is a strong pragmatic element in that. These relationships are fragile because they are under a lot of duress, but that is also what makes them more passionate and more revealing about the essence of human behaviour.
As we gradually got to know each other better the film's central question began to transpire: In a society where all manner of prejudice against the physically challenged is rife, the most important repercussion is how this prejudice impacts on their self-esteem and their sense of dignity. By entering into this world with a camera, I had to ask myself: if film is indeed shadow and if shadows heal, can the film restore the human dignity of which the protagonists have been deprived?