fambul tok

2011/2012     1 x 52 min.     Color     English

A Catalyst for Peace Film

Original Theatrical Version:

Director and Producer
Sara Terry

Producer and Executive Producer
Libby Hoffman

Rory Kennedy

Brian Singbiel

International Version:

Directed by Henry Jacobson, Edited by Emma Tammi

Charles Taylor has been sentenced to a 50-year prison term for War Crimes, but Sierra Leone has remained frozen in the traumatic aftermath of more than a decade of violence. Now, victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war come together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. Through reviving their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk) around village bonfires, Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level – succeeding where other post-conflict efforts failed. This film explores the depths of a culture that believes true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals – and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities.

The film delicately uncovers stories from the heart of Sierra Leone, including that of a friendship torn apart by a brutal beating, the horrific rape of a young girl by her young uncle, and a brother considered responsible for horrific acts of violence that left his innocent family members shunned and isolated. Interwoven with these stories is that of Mohammad Savage, a young rebel commander linked to thousands of executions. Locals recall the terrible day when a rash of killings believed ordered by Savage nearly decimated their village. In the film’s most dramatic moment, Savage finally concedes responsibility and goes before the village seeking forgiveness.

These stories of reconciliation paint a vivid portrait of post-conflict healing in Sierra Leone, seen through the lens of family, friends and community, exploring an approach to conflict resolution nearly incomprehensible to a Western mindset; a culture which values the restoration of relationships and the wholeness of community rather than measures of punishment and retribution. Fambul Tok suggests the possibilities that may exist in post-conflict African countries for creating sustainable peace. With its intimate exploration of a powerful grass-roots program created and led by Sierra Leoneans themselves, the film raises questions about the international community’s efforts in Africa to create peace through Western-based traditions of crime and punishment – and searches for answers in African traditions which are based on cultural norms of confession, forgiveness and restorative justice.