From Director Daniel Junge:
First and foremost, I hope that viewers walk away from our film—contrary to so many other visions of Africa—with a sense of hope. That the right individuals, making the right choices, enabled by the international community, can turn around the most destitute of countries, despite our prejudices to the contrary.
I hope that people recognize the role the developed world and the U.S., in particular, play in a country like Liberia. We like to believe these countries are held back by their own deficient leadership, and while in some cases they are, our actions (or inaction) can have a profound effect. More concretely, I hope the film increases the pressure on Liberia’s creditors to relieve the country’s debts, which hamper the abilities of a leader like President Sirleaf to achieve any agenda.
I hope people are inspired to learn more about Liberia and the unique history we share with Liberians. It’s an amazing story.
And I hope that viewers question whether women are inherently better leaders than men. I have my answer to that question, but viewers will have their own.
His three favorite films:
A miserably difficult question. I can tell you that Star Wars, Sex, Lies and Videotape and Hoop Dreams were all instrumental at different times in life in influencing me to become a filmmaker.
His advice for aspiring filmmakers:
If you can find anything else which equally satisfies you, do it. This was the advice given to me in film school by an industry professional, advice which completely enraged me at the time but was in fact true.
Just shoot. You can write hundreds of letters and grant proposals (which I did) but in the end the only person that will give you your first shot is yourself. With the advent of today’s readily accessible tools, there’s no excuse for anyone who wants to become a filmmaker… which is a little frightening to me.
His most inspirational food for making independent film:
I get revved up watching other documentaries, especially ones I walk out of thinking, “I could never make that film.” Being in awe of someone’s effort, approach or abilities reminds me my next film has got to be better than the last one.
Named by Filmmaker magazine as one of 25 up-and-coming filmmakers, Junge had his feature-length directorial debut with CHIEFS, which aired on Independent Lens and won best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. Junge also directed Reading Your Rights and Big Blue Bear, both of which aired on PBS, and We Are PHAMALy, which screened at the Tribeca and Hot Springs film festivals. He served as creative director for the Emmy Award-winning series Common Good, directing four of its segments.
Junge received his B.A. from Colorado College and attended film school at New York University. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Erin. Junge is currently finishing a new feature documentary, They Killed Sister Dorothy.
Siatta Scott Johnson
Scott Johnson was born in Buchanan, Liberia in 1974 and raised in rural Grand Bassa County. She fled Grand Bassa in the early 1990s with the outbreak of war and eventually settled in Monrovia, where she was living during the end of the civil war in 2003.
Scott Johnson earned her B.A. in mass communications from the University of Liberia after the school re-opened following the war. She holds certificates in political reporting from the University of Liberia and in media from the Press Union of Liberia/UNMIL, and a diploma in journalism from the Liberia Institute of Journalism. She has five years of experience as a reporter and producer at DCTV, one of Liberia’s only broadcast television stations, and is a founding member of Omuahtee Africa Media. She speaks English, Liberia Dialect English and Bassa fluently and is the mother of two.
Ansbacher is the founder of Just Media and has served as its executive director since 2000, producing more than 25 documentary shorts featuring social entrepreneurs, including the Emmy Award-winning series Common Good. CHIEFS, a documentary about the Wyoming Indian High School basketball team, was Ansbacher’s first feature film producer credit. Since then, he has also collaborated with Daniel Junge on Reading Your Rights, We Are PHAMALy and a number of other broadcast documentaries.
Ansbacher received his B.A. from Colorado College and his M.A. in psychology from the University of Denver and has worked as a counselor in Colorado. His short films have screened in festivals in New York, Vienna, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro and Denver.
Stack is an Emmy Award-winning and two-time Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker. In 1991 he founded the non-profit Gabriel Films and has since produced more than 75 films for nearly all of the cable channels in the U.S. and many television partners abroad. He has released several films theatrically and shown his work at many major festivals.Stack’s career highlights include producing the International Emmy for Arts Documentary-winning Damned in the U.S.A. (1991), the Golden Eagle Award winner Harlem Diary: Nine Voices of Resilience (1994), the two-time Emmy winner Final Judgment: The Execution of Antonio James (1996), the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner The Farm and the Oscar-nominated The Wildest Show in the South (2000). Stack’s Liberia: An Uncivil War won Special Jury Mention at the 2004 AFI/Silverdocs Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the 2004 IDFA film festival.