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Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars (2005)

Reuben M. Koroma , Francis John Langba , Banker White , Zach Niles  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Reuben M. Koroma, Francis John Langba, Abduul Rahim Kamara, Efuah Grace, Alhadji Jefferey Kamara
  • Directors: Banker White, Zach Niles
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QXDD32
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,371 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Featurette: Refugee Rolling
  • Deleted scenes
  • Musical moments
  • About
  • Theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Uplifting and courageous, this dramatic seven-time award-winning film by Zach Niles and Banker White tracks the journey of Sierra Leone s Refugee All Stars--a group of six musicians who formed a band after being displaced from their home during the brutal decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone--as they rise from the ashes of war and inspire a nation to believe in the healing power of music.

SIERRA LEONE S REFUGEE ALL STARS follows band mates Reuben Koroma, Francis Franco Langba, Efuah Grace, Mohammed Bangura, Arahim Kamara and Alhadji Black Nature Kamara through their tour of local refugee camps, debut recording session and painful return to their country for the first time since the war. The band s sound, a mixture of home-grown beats from West Africa, roots-reggae and Western-influenced rhythm and blues combined with heartfelt lyrics which condemn war and encourage social change, have been praised around the world, leading to the band s first American tour.

DVD Features: Featurette: Refugee Rolling - this short film picks up the band s story as they prepare for their first journey to America and quickly become an international musical sensation; Deleted Scenes; Musical Moments; About; Theatrical Trailer

The indomitable human spirit shines through in Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, the true tale of some African musicians who managed to survive, even thrive, during their country's darkest days. From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone, a former British colony located on Africa's west coast, was devastated by a civil war in which brutal rebel militias laid waste to their own country. Thousands were killed, while those who survived lost family members, homes, and, in many cases, limbs and other body parts that were hacked off by the sadistic rebels (the film contains grim, sometimes graphic footage of such atrocities). Like many fellow Sierra Leoneans, singer-songwriter Reuben M. Koroma and the other members of the group that came to be known as the Refugee All Stars fled to neighboring Guinea (as did people from Liberia and the Ivory Coast after war broke out there as well). Despite frequent moves from one camp to another ("Today you settle, tomorrow you pack" was one of their mantras), the musicians manage to keep writing songs, practicing, and performing for other refugees; their music, played on drums and electric guitars, bass, and keyboards, is a lilting, infectious, often joyful sound, influenced by Jamaican reggae and reflecting their wartime experiences simply and literally. When the war finally ends, many are reluctant to return to Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital and largest city. But when the United Nations offers to sponsor a brief visit that will include the recording of their first album, Koroma and company agree. And while the place they go back to is a mess, with many people living in poverty and squalor, it is, after all, their homeland; in the end, patriotism and the redemptive power of music transcend. Among the extensive bonus features are deleted scenes, a 20-minute featurette that documents preparations for the All Stars' first world tour, and a variety of "musical moments," including a 2006 gig in Japan. --Sam Graham

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suffering Transformed by Music April 6, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a compelling and ultimately uplifting documentary about refugees from the civil war in Sierra Leone who come together in a refugee camp in Guinea, create a band, and begin to transform their suffering into beautiful music. The documentary includes images of war torn Sierra Leone, as well as the stories of the members of The Refugee All Stars, so there are some very disturbing segments. If you are interested in learning more about this I also recommend a book by Ishmael Beah "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a highly compelling story of music and hope September 14, 2007
This is the remarkable story of Sierra Leonean refugees who start a musical group in their Guinean camp. The movie documents the band's return to their homeland. The Refugee All Stars eventually make a record and encourage their fellow refugees to return. From the outside, this film may appear to be a downer given the weight of the topic. Contrarily, this story demonstrates how hope and courage can help us to overcome hardship. Beyond the social and political elements, the music is fantastic. The group's musical style alternates between highlife inspired Afropop and reggae. For good measure, light brush strokes of dancehall and hip-hop are employed. While recorded in the new millennium, the music is graced with a 'roots' sensibility. Viewers who are wooed by the songs should acquire the accompanying CD. "Living Like a Refugee" plays refined songs that were only rough drafts in the film. Not unlike "Buena Vista Social Club," this film documents an unknown musical group just prior to finding worldwide success. Indeed, this is now a global phenomenon, complete with live tours and film screenings all across the United States. The video production is excellent while the audio options include surround sound. The DVD is packed with bonus features including the trailer and the 'Refugee Rolling' featurette. "Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars" is an appealing watch on so many levels. It has music, humanity, drama, tragedy and triumph. Watch this film and experience the Refugee All Stars' phenomenon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I am rating this dvd as a 5 dispite the fact that I haven't even seen it. Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars performed today on the Dartmouth common. Their music is a joyful blend of instruments and musical styles and beats. They are simply amazing. I am searching for their cd now. Many thanks to the sponsors of this fine (and free to the public) concert. And kudos to these talented musicians for inspiring us to give peace a chance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Testament to the Human Spirit October 23, 2010
By Spindle
Every person goes through trials and tribulations in life yet few of us can turn those dark times into something truly positive. This is a story of people who have lost more than I can fathom yet they decide to do what they can with what they have. The effect is beautiful music which undoubtedly helped many of their fellow people overcome their tragedies and also made the world more aware of their situation. It's a truly inspiring story and I recommend it very highly!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ART, BEAUTY, TRUTH AND HONESTY = HOPE FOR HUMANITY September 12, 2007
The purpose of art is complex and varied, but it is especially rewarding when art reflects the strength of the human spirit. When beauty, hope and positivity can be found in the face of abject horror, few achievements could be considered more admirable. The Refugee All Stars represents a conglomeration of musicians intent on finding a reason to believe in themselves against overwhelming odds, and this video documentary of their trials and tribulations is as spiritually stimulating as it is musically rewarding.
The civil war that erupted in Sierra Leone forced much of that country's population to flee into neighboring Guinea, where tented camps provided refuge but little else. This video follows the bandmembers' plight, from their horrific experience in their native country, to the time spent forming a band and rehearsing while in exile, through their trepidatious, but ultimately heroic return to the homeland. In the face of trauma, in the midst of a refugee camp filled with tents that can make simple dignity an effort of survival, the Refugee All Stars provide hope through beauty.
From a musical perspective, the band betrays an unusually strong reggae influence, combined with rap overtones that fatten the grooves of the traditional African rhythm base. The vocal harmonies are rich, conveying evocative, melodic lyrics that rely on poetry more than political diatribe. Songs are topical, but not specifically political. Astoundingly, the band never lapses into polemics, keeping the emotional content of their plight front and center without taking sides in a civil war that has cost them so much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal... July 26, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is the real deal. To watch this band form in refugee camps, hear their stories; watch them play amazing songs - fantastic! The dvd starts with the band singing a Lucky Dube jam. Any root reggae fan will appreciate this Dvd. Real Real Real ~!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This DVD is an amazing journey! September 15, 2007
By sandi
I would recommend this DVD to anyone who's concerned about the situation in Africa today, anyone who believes that the situation there affects us all, anyone who believes that even in the horrors of war, there is hope, anyone who believes in the power of music to heal and help us all find our way.

The makers of this film have given voice to the amazing group of musicians who make up the Refugee All Stars. In doing so, we're allowed a glimpse into their lives and the journey they've made through some truly inconceivable terrors. Through the unifying power of music, these musicians have taken the experiences of refugee camp life and drained every drop of fear and hate and oppression out of them and turned all that into a message of hope. Hope for themselves, and hope for us all, if we care to join them in making a better world.

The DVD successfully walks the fine line between showing the evil and horrifying results of the tribal warfare that exists in so many places today and showing that the situation is not without hope and answers. It's truly an inspiring film and, aside from enjoying the wonderful, wonderful music of the Refugee All Stars, a film that uses this music to give us all lessons to live by.
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