DER Documentary

Fambul Tok

Fambul Tok launch preview watch a preview

by Sara Terry / Catalyst for Peace
2-DVD set, color, 82/52 mins with 68 min of extras, 2012
English and Krio with English subtitles

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Seven years after the last bullet was fired, a decade of brutal fighting in Sierra Leone finds resolution as people come together to talk around traditional village bonfires. Some had perpetrated terrible crimes against friends or family. Some had faced horrible losses: loved ones murdered, limbs severed. But as they tell their stories, admit their wrongs, forgive, dance, and sing together, true reconciliation begins. This is the story of Fambul Tok (Krio for "family talk"), and it is a story the world needs to hear.

In Fambul Tok, this story is told by the people who are living it. Our guide is human rights activist John Caulker, a Sierra Leonean with a vision of peace for his country. Village by village, Caulker organizes a grassroots program to help communities hold reconciliation ceremonies — and hold fast to the new peace. He finds his people eager to turn ancient customs towards healing contemporary wounds, and the result is stories viewers will never forget.

Bonfire to bonfire, dark memories move into the light. Sahr and Nyumah, childhood friends torn apart when Nyumah was forced to cut Sahr's father's throat. Esther, raped as a child by a group of soldiers — among them her uncle Joseph, just 13 years old himself at the time. The radical forgiveness they request or offer is shocking - and inspiring. Their stories challenge Western perceptions of justice and provoke new ways of thinking about crime and punishment, conflict and community.

Never is this more true than when Captain Mohamed Savage, the notorious rebel commander believed to have committed some of the worst atrocities in the war, is onscreen. A defiant, menacing voice in his first meetings with Caulker, we witness his transformation as he encounters Fambul Tok, admits who he is, and expresses his desire to return to the site of many of his alleged atrocities, to apologize.

Fambul Tok raises questions about efforts to create peace in Africa through Western-based traditions of crime and punishment, challenging the neo-colonial idea that Africa needs to be "saved" by the West. By illuminating a successful peace process that is based on reviving communal traditions of confession, forgiveness, and restorative justice, the film encourages individuals and communities around the world to engage in the kind of grass-roots transformation that leads to peace.

Disc 1 - Fambul Tok (82 min, 2011) - launch preview watch a preview
Includes the original, multiple-award-winning film by Sara Terry, and its epilogue (18 min, 2012), in which viewers follow notorious rebel commander Captain Mohamed Savage as he returns to his village.

Disc 2 - Fambul Tok: Forgiving Savage (52 min, 2012)
The brand new, never-before-released educational version, produced by Catalyst for Peace. This version integrates material from the epilogue, as well as new, previously unreleased footage, edited to under an hour for ease of classroom and community use.

Also on this disc, two special bonus features which highlight how the film itself is in turn sparking new transformation:

American Teens "Walk the Tok" (13 min) - Middle schoolers in Philadelphia, PA (USA) use the lessons of Fambul Tok to resolve conflicts in their classroom and school.

Fambul Tok Ex-Combatant Workshop: Waterloo (14 min) - Captain Savage works with Fambul Tok in Sierra Leone to screen the film featuring his story and to facilitate a workshop for over 40 former leaders of various armed groups, encouraging them to follow his example and apologize for the what they did in the war.

“Director Sara Terry brings a career's worth of journalism experience to this assured filmmaking debut that examines John Caulker's Fambul Tok organization, which addresses the deep wounds created by a decade of civil war in Sierra Leone.” — John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
“This documentary echoes the recent grassroots revolutions in the Middle East, and it teaches international communities that real hope for peace comes from the strength of local community and forgiveness.” — Ralphie Hardesty, The Austinist
“The film is beautifully shot, the tenderness, grief and guilt of victims and perpetrators bleed through Terry's frames, blending in the act of forgiveness. This forgiveness is best witnessed when best friends, estranged since the war, again come together.” — Trisha Sertori, The Jakarta Post
“The film is beautifully shot, the tenderness, grief and guilt of victims and perpetrators bleed through Terry's frames, blending in the act of forgiveness. This forgiveness is best witnessed when best friends, estranged since the war, again come together.” — “The 12 Best Films of SXSW”, Paste Magazine

Related Resources
Film's Website
Educational Guide (PDF)
Companion Hosting Guide (PDF)
Video: Forgiving the Unforgiveable - Libby Hoffman at TEDxDirigo
Video: Fambul Tok and Community Healing - Libby Hoffman at TEDxYouth@CEHS
Book: Fambul Tok, Introduction by Ishmael Beah, afterword by Benedict Sannoh, photographs by Sara Terry, interview with John Caulker and essays by Libby Hoffman and Sara Terry

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Best Documentary Film, Beloit International Film Festival, USA, 2013
Honorable Mention, International Film Festival for Environment, Health and Culture, 2013
Best Documentary Feature, SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival, 2013
Best Human Spirit Documentary, Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, 2012
Golden Lobster: Best Documentary, Portland Maine Film Festival, 2012
St. Clair Bourne (Best Documentary) Award, San Francisco Black Film Festival, 2012
Norman Vaughan Indomitable Spirit Award, Mountainfilm, 2012
Jury Special Prize, Portugal Underground Film Festival, 2012
Jury Grand Prize, Non Violence International Film Festival, 2012
Best Documentary, Queens World Film Festival, 2012
Best Documentary, Reynolda Film Festival, 2012
Best Feature, Show Me Justice Film Festival, 2012
Crystal Heart Award, Heartland Film Festival, 2011
Human Spirit Award, Nashville Film Festival, 2011
Honorable Mention Best Documentary, Nashville Film Festival, 2011
Best Documentary, Ft. Myers Film Festival, 2011
Best of Fest, Global Social Change Film Festival, 2011
Best Documentary, Audience Choice Award, FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival, 2011
SIGNIS Award, Zanzibar International Film Festival, 2011
Luxor African Film Festival, Egypt, 2014
HumanDOC International Film Festival, Poland, 2013
Intimate Lens Ethnographic Film Festival, Italy, 2013

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