Sorious Samura, the son of a man who experienced some form of slavery in his early years in Freetown, Sierra Leone, started his film-making career by chance. A high school drop out, he was given a choice: continue on with a lifestyle of crime and gambling or develop a craft and get a job. Learning film-making skills as he went along, he started making films for UNICEF and other organizations in Freetown. In the early 1990s, UNICEF helped garner him a scholarship to study film-making in England. He stayed in England, working three service-industry jobs at a time to earn a living and support his family, always keeping at the back of his mind the dream of becoming a full-fledged journalist.
He returned to Sierra Leone during the height of the civil war. Because he was local and because he had a camera, he filmed the massacre, gaining the trust and traveling alongside both Revolutionary United Front rebel commanders and the peacekeeping force, ECOMOG.
The unedited footage found its way to London, winning Sorious many awards, and an introduction to Irish journalist Ron McCullagh, whom Sorious joined in 2000 at Insight News. A great believer that the West’s role in African journalism is not to shape content or to parachute in, butto train, mentor and support, Ron and his Insight News TV team, assisted Sorious to edit that footage into the documentary film, Cry Freetown. Cry Freetown went on to win many awards including an international Emmy. Cry Freetown led to Sorious working with CNN, the BBC, Channel Four and Al Jazeera.
One of the earlier films commissioned by CNN saw Sorious investigating the connection between Liberian president Charles Taylor and the Sierra Leoneon rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, and allegations that Taylor’s regime was providing arms in exchange for diamonds from Sierra Leone.
Cry Freetown was used to help create the Hollywood feature film Blood Diamond. Sorious also became a consultant for the film. Some of Sorious’ footage from west Africa also played a role in the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor in The Hague.
Since Cry Freetown, Sorious has become one of the world’s leading reporters, journalists and filmmakers, with his work winning numerous awards and being broadcast on channels across the Globe. Sorious knows that his passion is not unique: there are journalists like him all across Africa, they just need the kind of training and mentorship that he received.