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Son of None

It's Christmas-time at a Liberian orphanage for victims of the war and Joshua, a seven-year old kindergartner, is having a rough start to his day. His shoes are missing and he is running late for breakfast. Living with over 100 other children, this may mean a missed meal. To make matters worse, Joshua is later called to read in front of his class. He is still learning English, a second language to his native Kpelle dialect. Many of the children giggle as he trips over the unfamiliar words. His teacher, the single positive adult influence in his life, encourages him to study hard so he can pass his final exams. She also persuades him to be more social and to use his upcoming birthday to make new friends.

Her efforts, however, are thwarted by an administrator who interrupts Joshua's studies to publicly embarrass him about his chores. Joshua finds solace in caring for the orphanage's goats and other creatures that lurk in the jungle just outside. As Joshua is preoccupied with a pet spider, one of the baby goats goes missing, causing him even greater grief. Though carrying dark memories, in danger of failing in school, and without a close friend, Joshua searches for the compassion that has evaded him his entire life. Joshua is able to exhibit a love for those even more vulnerable than he, signifying Liberia's healing process after its long and brutal civil war.

Film notes

Director's Statement:
I had recently lived seven months in Central Honduras where my wife and I shot a feature-length documentary and working with an organization that runs boarding schools for the poor. The children at the school often amazed me by the great generosity that they showed, despite the fact that many had come from extreme poverty. They were constantly thankful for the little they did have and they continually sought to help those with even less than they.

I went to Liberia in the fall of 2009 to shoot a documentary on Liberia Mission, Inc – a boarding school founded in 2003 directly after Liberia’s brutal civil wars. From the very early stages of planning the trip, I had also wanted to shoot a narrative short that would explore this concept of the poor generously helping those with even less than they. And because Liberia’s brutal civil war had the greatest effect on children – both as victims and unwilling combatants - I thought it was important to focus on the children who have been directly affected by the war.

Soon after arriving, I met Joshua, a young child who beheld a beauty, innocence and sense of humor that is immediately evident. He also has a magnetic personality, in a very quiet way. I had asked him if he would like to make "a show" - a term Liberians use for making a film. He enthusiastically agreed - so long as filming did not interfere with meals. He was a remarkably natural actor - a fact that was evident very early on.
I also wanted to play with the narrative and documentary genres in the Herzogian tradition – adding fictional elements to the actual events and natural circumstances in these children’s lives. I incorporated as much natural sound and noise as possible so as to provide an authentic experience for a Western audience.

Kelly Reichardt's "Wendy and Lucy" expertly took the audience through a woman's experience with no exposition. I wanted an audience to have a similar experience with a troubled youth in Liberia.

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Copyright

Copyright © 2010 Obrigado Productions

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Previous screenings

2010
17 Sep – 23 Sep | Boston, United States
7 Oct – 21 Oct | Chicago, United States
2011
21 Jan – 27 Jan | Park City, United States
1 Mar – 13 Mar | San Jose, United States

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Information on this profile is provided by the film owners and/or compiled from available sources | Profile updated 1 Oct 2010