Shooting Freetown: Shared Anthropology & Collaborative Media in Urban Sierra Leone

By Kieran Hanson - Speaker

This paper reflects upon the author’s ethnographic film project 'Shooting Freetown', carried out amongst musicians and film-makers of Sierra Leone’s capital city in the rainy season of 2011. The project’s primary inspirations, the ‘ethno-fiction’ films of Jean Rouch, were also shot in coastal West African cities more than 50 years prior. To pick up the mantle of his ‘shared anthropology’ to explore interior creative worlds presented alongside the observed exterior, entails something different in 21st Century urban West Africa. Media technology is no longer out of reach here, attested by the region’s booming film-industries. In Sierra Leone, a small country still recovering from the mass destruction of a decade long war, from the scorched earth sprouts green shoots of creativity. The invitation is there for the visiting film-maker to adopt an open, negotiated methodology at every stage, engaging participants in mutual creation, entering into the existing media-dialogues. Reflexivity, reciprocity and collaboration can push one far beyond observational cinema. Recent technological and economic developments suggest a further levelling of the playing-field, new possibilities for Sierra Leonean images and narratives to compete with those imposed from outside.


Kieran Hanson is a film-maker and Visual Anthropology graduate from Preston, UK. He recently attained his MA Visual Anthropology from the Granada Centre, University of Manchester. His thesis was an ethnographic film project carried out over the summer and autumn of 2011 in Sierra Leone, West Africa. This produced the short documentary Shooting Freetown, plus a number of collaborative video pieces.
Shooting Freetown recently won Best Film in the Student Short Documentary category at the Manchester Film Festival, has been nominated for the One World Media Awards 2012 and is currently showing at festivals around the world.
Kieran is currently in Manchester working on his next film project, looking at the experiences the Sierra Leonean diaspora in the UK against the backdrop of the Sierra Leone general election.

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