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They Are We    cover photo

They Are We 2013

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Producer n/a
Directed by Emma Christopher
DVD, color, 88 min.

College - General Adult
: Anthropology, Dance, Educational, Folklore, Human Trafficking, Language, Music, World History

Date Entered: 09/01/2015

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Descendants of slaves, the Ganga-Longoba community in central Cuba, faithfully preserve the culture of West African ancestors but with little knowledge of their heritage. At the same time, in a remote corner of Sierra Leone, families continue to mourn the unexplained disappearance centuries earlier of relatives sold into slavery.

This film is, in part, the story of a reunion following 170 years of separation. After a chance meeting that provides a clue to the African origin of a Ganga dance, Australian historian Christopher travels between Cuba and Sierra Leone to confirm and establish a connection between the two groups. With her help, four Cubans are finally granted permission to travel to the Mokpangumba where they are welcomed by the Upper Banta villagers as long-lost brothers and sisters. The Cubans at last discover the roots of their own language, dance, music, and folklore.

Getting to the core of this story is difficult. For those unfamiliar with the history, geography, and culture of West Africa, Cuba, and the19th century Atlantic slave trade, a great deal of background information is needed to adequately understand the myriad issues involved. While context is adequately provided by the filmmaker, general viewers may struggle with the degree and significance of every detail presented. With so many facts to absorb, process and weigh, the deep meaning that the reunion clearly has for the direct participants falls flat for the audience.

Recommended with reservations. Of potential interest to academics with a background and interest in Afro-Cuban history.