Three Recent Grads Return from Ghana Oral History Project, Produce Film
Story posted October 07, 2008
Three Bowdoin graduates — Steve Bartus '08, Anna Karass '08 and Aisha Woodward '08 — traveled to Ghana for three weeks this past summer to chronicle the work of the Maine Ghana Youth Network (MGYN), a small non-profit group dedicated to improving educational opportunities for children living in Kissehman, an area within Accra, Ghana's capital city.
Bartus, Karass and Woodward have released an initial cut of their documentary Under the Mango Tree, which follows the work of the inspirational grassroots movement, and depicts the joys and challenges of running such an organization amid difficult circumstances.
"We went to Ghana with as little agenda as possible, because we knew that preconceived plans in developing countries rarely materialize," says Woodward.
"In the end, this worked out to our advantage. When we went back to edit our footage, we did not need to force a storyline — one just seemed to emerge organically. The Kissehman residents gave us a story, their story, and all we had to do was relay those words to the people back here."
Woodward says the documentary crew's goal was to make the project as collaborative as possible. They worked closely with the leaders of MGYN, Kissehman residents and the children themselves.
The crew brought 20 disposable cameras and distributed them to the children, who were asked to photograph what they found most important in their daily lives.
View a gallery of photos here.
"Our film is not just another documentary about poor kids in Africa," says Anna Karass.
"While Kissehman lacks many basic resources, it is also incredibly rich in its traditions and its people. The people of Kissehman are incredibly generous and help each other in times of need. It is this giving spirit that sustains the organization, and I think that the generosity of Kissehman's residents is one of the most important messages in the film. It is something that kept me going in Ghana."
"On a continent that seems to be perpetually plagued with stories of violence, disease, hunger and corruption, we wanted to give a community in Ghana the opportunity to tell a different kind of story," says Woodward. "One of hope, perseverance and the honest desire to improve the lives of its children."
The group's Maine Ghana Youth Network Oral History Project was the winning submission from Bowdoin for the 2008 Davis Projects for Peace program.
Davis Projects for Peace funds grassroots projects with the objective of encouraging and supporting motivated youth to create and implement their own ideas for building peace.
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