Solomon Juxon-Smith is just like any of the other 9 million people living in New York City. If you bumped into him at his work at the Fairways grocery market in uptown Manhattan, you probably wouldn’t think twice to ask him about his past. After all, you can’t ask everyone you meet how they ended up where they are. But if you did happen to ask Solomon, here’s what you’d hear:
Solomon was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone to Andrew Juxon-Smith. A few years after his birth, his father led a military coup and ruled the country between 1967 and 1968. During his short rule, his father Andrew rebuilt the dwindling economy at light speed, tackled tribal divisions and cracked down hard on government corruption. But his over strict, dictatorial leadership, lead to a growing unpopularity in the country, who felt that the military coup was unneeded. The final straw came when he began to aggressively investigate his own coup colleagues for corruption. A step too far; only 13 months into his rule, he was overthrown by his own military. He spent 7 years on death row, in jail for treason, whilst Solomon, his mother and two siblings, were forced into hiding in rural Sierra Leone.
After Andrew’s release, the family was hounded by authorities; armed men turned up regularly at their house. On one occasion Solomon had to hide under a desk at school when soldiers came looking for him. Even though the family had distanced themselves from politics and the military, life after the coup became increasingly tough. Eventually it became too dangerous for them to stay and the Juxon-Smith’s smuggled themselves out of the country, telling no one, leaving everything behind and resettling in America.
In America the family didn’t tell anyone about their past. Their new friends, neighbors and colleagues knew nothing of a coup, a death sentence and jail time. From a life at the pinnacle of society in Sierra Leone, the family took what jobs they could find in America, trying to adjust to their new life. In 1996, Andrew passed away having never returned to Sierra Leone. This year, Solomon’s mother’s death prompted him to tell the family’s story in full for the first time.
Those who remember Andrew’s leadership claim that he is the only uncorrupt leader in Sierra Leone’s Independent history. Solomon wants to make this documentary as a way to set the record straight and reclaim his father’s name and legacy in Sierra Leone. The documentary also stands as a unique chance to document and tell a portion of Sierra Leonean history that has long remained in the dark, on the verge of being lost.
Where The Money is going:
We have spent the last 6 months filming Solomon in New York, reconstructing the whole story. We must now go to Sierra Leone and interview those involved; fellow coup members, counter coup members, colleagues, family and historians. In addition to the interviews, we also need to film the places/spaces and events as reconstructions in order to piece Solomon’s story together in the most visually gripping way. The two week shoot is planned for December 2016. The money raised will go towards two crew member’s journeys, equipment and a fixer on the ground, who will help organize and facilitate the large amount we have to cover.
As well as the money going towards the filming in Sierra Leone, any leftover will go towards rare but important archival material. We have a fantastic private collection that belongs to the Juxon-Smith family, but we must also pay for copyrighted footage, which includes interviews with Andrew during the period of the coup, as well as rich footage of Freetown from the era. This motion archival footage is really important for gaging the personalities behind both Andrew and others involved in the story who are no longer alive.
You can find regular updates, information and photos from the film on http://juxonsmithdocumentary.tumblr.com
Andreas Hadjipateras - Director/Producer. Andreas is a New York based documentary director. He has directed Gallero, a documentary short about cockfighting in Cuba (Mykonos Biennale, Atlanta Documentary Festival, 1st Prize New Visions and Voices NYU). His first feature documentary ‘The Last Partisan’ about famed Greek resistance hero Manolis Glezos, is currently in post- production. Andreas is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch Film and Television department.
Omar Nasr - Director of Photography. Omar is a New York based cinematographer who grew up in Egypt. He has shot over 25 films both narrative and documentary, and has wide experience crewing on countless other projects in various rolls. In 2015 he was nominated for the ‘Cinematography Award’ at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival. Omar is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch Film and Television Department.
Idriss Kpange - Fixer, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Idriss works as a TV Corresspondent for Reuters. He has previously worked for ABC TV Africa, Commonwealth TV, Africa Channel, NBC News, well as on several documentaries for various clients. Idriss will be the organisational arms of the project on the ground for the Shoot in Sierra Leone.
Joachim Pfefferkorn - Editor. Joachim is an editor based out of New York. He has directed and cut various short form narrative and documentary works which have appeared in festivals such as RsXM, Big Muddy, and Victoria TX. He also logged footage and data wrangled for Gleason (Sundance 2016, SXSW 2016, Full Frame 2016) directed by Clay Tweel. Joachim a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and is currently attending Tisch for film and television production.
Risks and challenges
Risks and Challenges are a part of making any film; even more so when the film aims to reconstruct a portion of lost West African history. So far we have been very fortunate with those collaborating with us both in Sierra Leone and in the US. The hardest challenge we have faced so far is the lack of organization and preservation of the national archives in Freetown. As they are all undigitized and held in storage at the Fourah Bay College, it will be down to us to physically log and and restore anything we might need to use. Other than this, the biggest challenge is securing all the interviewees and filming all the necessary footage in a time efficient manner - and still being able to complete the film by the Fall of 2017. We are working hard to make sure this happens!
To express our sincere appreciation and gratitude, we have created rewards for all our funders. If you can’t donate, just spreading the word and sharing this page would be of huge help.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and helping us make ‘Juxon-Smith’ into a unique and historical piece of film. We look forward to sharing the finished film with you and beyond!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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