MAMA LIBERIA, a Mongoose Production short film promoting peaceful elections - August 2017

Recent Liberian History: A Violent Time

Beginning with the April 12, 1980 Coup d’Etat in which Liberia’s 20th President, William R. Tolbert, Jr., was assassinated, the history of Africa’s oldest independent republic has been marked by horrific violence. Although the period of President Samuel Doe’s rule from 1980 to 1989 was relatively peaceful, the manner in which he came to power foreshadowed the brutal murder of Doe followed by fourteen years of one of the most brutal civil conflicts in recent history. Reports estimate that about one fifth of the population of Liberia died during this turbulent time. Whether it was the unspeakable tragedy of child soldiers capable of the most heinous acts of violence or the casualty of rape, murder and wanton destruction of property, the Liberian nation endured it all.  President Charles Taylor came to power by the ballot in 1997; however, the country was never at peace under his rule.  In 2003, under intense international pressure, President Taylor was removed from power. After two years of an interim government led by Chairman Gyude Bryant, and with the aid of some 15,000 United Nations Peacekeepers, Liberia held its first peaceful election in decades.  President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history in 2005 as the first woman to be elected President of an African nation.  She was re-elected in 2011 under fairly peaceful conditions.  Now, in 2017, the true test of the Liberian democracy is underway. 

In October 2017, Liberians will have the opportunity to prove to the global community, which has invested so much in this peace, that power can be democratically transferred without violence.  Mrs. Sirleaf has served her two constitutionally-permitted terms and a new President must now be chosen by the people.  Although by most accounts Liberia is very unlikely to return to civil conflict, too much is at stake to risk the possibility of any violence what-so-ever.  After more than twelve years since the cessation of the civil war, some people may have forgotten just how devastating the war years were for Liberia.  Some of our youth cannot remember the war at all. 
In this light, as we approach the General and Presidential Elections scheduled for October 2017, the people of Liberia must be reminded about the consequences of violent conflict.  One act of violence can escalate into decades of unrest and the loss of thousands of lives not to mention the destruction of infrastructure that has just begun to return to the country.  Too many international partners and humanitarian organizations have invested too heavily in the peace Liberia now enjoys to risk the possibility of a return to violence under the strain of political campaigning and the exercise of franchise. 
The film, MAMA LIBERIA, produced by Mongoose Productions of African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU), is a 15-minute dramatization of the consequence of violence.  It teaches that Liberians should love their country.  Liberia is their mother and all Liberians are Mama Liberia’s children regardless of their tribe or religion.  In the view of the producers, if widely distributed and displayed ahead of and throughout the elections, this film could serve as tool to prevent violence. It could be used as a constant reminder that Liberians must be peaceful; the film dramatizes the consequences of violence and the ongoing need to promote reconciliation among Liberians that any future government of the nation much continue to tackle.

About the Producers

African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) is a private, church-related, co-educational, four year, degree-granting institution situated in the heart of Monrovia, Liberia, at 34 Camp Johnson Road. Its vision is the “pursuit of excellence” and its mission is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian values within a caring community.  Under the dynamic leadership of the current President, Dr. Joseph T. Isaac, at AMEU, learning is first. The University is always striving for bigger and better learning outcomes.  The University believes in the pillars of: faith, academic excellence, integrity, stewardship, diversity and liberty.  AMEU opened its doors in 1995 with the John R. Bryant Theological Seminary.  Since then, the University has added the Louise C. York College of Business and Public Administration; the Jean Bell Manning College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, and its newest college, the College of Education. AMEU offers Bachelor’s degrees in fourteen disciplines.  In September 2017, AMEU will launch its first graduate degree programs which will include a Masters of Divinity as well as  Executive Masters of Business Administration.  The University has international partnerships with Ghana Technology University College; LEAD College of Management in India; Savannah State University, USA among others.  Local partnerships include the Liberia Coca Cola Bottling Company - Coca Cola Institute for Innovation at AMEU; LIBTELCO Computer Lab; the Lions Club Computer Training Center for the Blind; the United States of America Embassy E-Library Program and various international scholarships; the United Kingdom Embassy Chevening Scholars Program and International English Language and Testing System(IELTS); the Swedish Embassy Swedish/Liberian Film Festival; the LINKS, International Reading Room; the Essat Eid Business and Continuing Education Center and Applied Scholastics, Inc. within the Vacation Bridge Program.

Mongoose Productions

In 2015, under the leadership of Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, Associate Vice President for Academic Support Services, the AMEU Student Body voted to have the “Mongoose” as their University’s mascot.  AMEU campus on Camp Johnson Road is now widely known as Mongoose Kingdom. 

In 2016, Dr. Barnes, who holds a Ph.D. in Film from the University of Maryland, USA, organized the AMEU film production company known as Mongoose Productions for the purpose of encouraging students and staff to participate in the creative process of producing movies that are educational as well as entertaining.

Mongoose Productions presented its first short film entitled, EVERYDAY, in December 2016 at the AMEU Christmas Extravaganza to a very appreciative audience.  Since then, the film, which tackles the serious issue of systemic corruption in Liberian society, has been screened at other venues in and out of Liberia.  MAMA LIBERIA premiered in June 2017 at An Evening of Art and Culture at AMEU. The film is produced in collaboration with Kreative Mindz Studio, Inc. and Aurora Productions, Inc. and dramatizes Liberia’s ongoing need for peace and reconciliation especially as the country anticipates elections in October 2017.

Aurora Productions

Aurora Productions was established in 2001 by Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes and Ambassador Milton Nathaniel Barnes.  The company has produced several films including: THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF AFRICAN DANCE: TRADITIONAL DANCES OF LIBERIA (2001) a 30 minute educational documentary presenting and describing traditional dances of Liberia from the various ethnic and tribal groups as a way of characterizing dance in traditional African cultures; CHILDREN OF GOLD (2002) a 20 minute documentary about orphaned children living within a refugee camp near Monrovia; WE WANT PEACE! (2003) a 20 minute documentary recording activities of WIPNET (Women in Peace Building Network) - a women’s protest movement to lobby international support for peace in Liberia. Footage from Aurora Productions was used in the internationally acclaimed documentary PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL (2006). 

Over the period 2001-2003, Aurora Productions produced 29 episodes of a Liberian television comedy, WE ON IT!! showcasing the talent of popular local actors. 

Aurora Productions has collaborated with other cultural organizations such as Malawala Balawala Productions and Flomo Theater to promote traditional music, dance and drama for the purpose of  civic education.  Beginning in 2001, several theatre projects were executed over a two-year period including a series of programs sponsored by the United States Embassy in Liberia for HIV/AIDS awareness and the promotion of democratic principles in the society.

Prior to establishing Aurora Productions, the Barnes researched, wrote and co-produced CRY OF THE PEPPERBIRD:A STORY OF LIBERIA (2000) a fifty-minute historical documentary on the conflicts that led to the formation of the Liberian nation and the conflicts that shaped her destiny from 1822-1997. 

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