Popular Disc Jockey, based in America and a broadcast journalist of long-standing has spoken to Salone Jamboree about his take on the recent presidential fete from a cross-section of members of the entertainment industry. David Buakei Vandy has worked for the African service of the Voice of America for over fifteen years and he is the presenter of African Beats.SaloneJamboree’s Mohamed Gandoh Jalloh had a chat with the award-winning actor.
Sa. Jamboree (Sa. J): Who is David Buakei Vandy? Can you please give us a brief background about yourself?
David Buakei Vandy (DBV) I’m a Sierra Leonean and I have been a broadcast journalist for thirty (30) years now. I also act in films and have been in it since the late ’70s with KaiLondo Theater, one of the leading theatre groups in the country. I performed a lot of plays in Sierra Leone before coming to America. I have been in America for the past 15 years working in Washington DC with the Voice of America as host and producer of the music show ‘African Beats.’
Here in the United States, I’m involved in acting. I’m doing theatre and I created the first Sierra Leone theatre company here known as Sierra Theatre Productions and we have done stuff like ‘True Friendship, ‘Love Crimes’ and ‘Cry of the Country Virgin’. Sierra Theatre Productions is the first Sierra Leonean Theatre Company to perform at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. I have acted in a few movies like ‘Dynamic Range’ where I played the lead actor; and have done ‘Web strings’ featuring iconic Nigerian actors and other Sierra Leoneans like Cool J, Favour Sesay, Tisha Barry…but it’s yet to be released.
Sa. J: What are your views on the state of the film industry in SL, viz-a-viz the recent meeting between the president and Entertainers at State Lodge?
(DBV) Well, I don’t know if I’m the most qualified individual to talk about the state of the film industry in Sierra Leone since I have been out of Sierra Leone for about twenty (20) years now. I was doing more theatre and doing stage plays. The first film I did was ‘Love and Tradition.’
But I believe the industry is beginning to strive because I have seen a few movies out here unlike previously when they were not up to a standard. It means things are changing. I think we can get there, we can chase other African countries. I know that we used to have very good actors but the problem I detect is poor editing of the scripts. I saw in some movies that our scripts were not edited properly and vetted. You know when we were doing plays at the time our scripts were vetted but things are changing. The picture is getting better and sound quality is getting better. I want to believe that we are getting there. We’re not there yet but we’re getting there.
I want to believe that we’re not there yet but we’re getting there and what I’m seeing now, the type of movies coming out of Sierra Leone, I think we’re way over 50% to that level. One thing that I’m happy about is that some of our actors look like Desmond Finney and others are going out of the country and mixing up some of these top stars in Nigeria and Ghana and it’s a learning process.
For the artists to rub the skin with the presidency, I think it’s a step in the right direction. The only thing I can say is that the President should not make the same mistakes done by others. Why I say this is because the leaders used to bring together entertainers and splash money on them to praise them. The current president should not indulge in such pettiness and what I think is important is creating the enabling environment, like building the industry to grow. You can pour money into the industry but not on individuals. There are structures to make the industry grow like an auditorium, a centre, a school for entertainers that all require money. Teach somebody how to fish so they will not come back to you tomorrow and cry that I’m hungry. When you teach them how to fish they will go and fish for themselves. Goodluck Jonathan did that for the entertainment industry in Nigeria. He poured over $200 million into the industry and took some top Directors and Writers and sent them to Hollywood for training. They came back to build the industry.
What are we not getting right and what do you think is the way forward in terms of promoting the film industry?
DBV: As I said, I’m not there. I have been out there for a while. I’m just lending my voice. I have highlighted a lot of stuff and I think we have to do things right. Some people are saying Sierra Leone doesn’t have a big market. We have about seven (7) million people but if you do your production right, and it is good trust me, people are going to buy it.
I think that is it. Get a good product and even those who don’t understand the language that you speak will go for it because it is good. When you’re watching TV and the picture is not good, you turn it off. If the sound quality is not good, you switch it off. That’s the same thing with the movies. If the picture and sound quality are good, the acting is good then people will buy it. We’re here in America and foreign films are coming here that speak a language that we don’t understand but because the storyline is good, the acting is good, the picture is good, the sound is good then people will watch it and they will transcribe.
Foreign Language films have won nominations and awards here. That’s the thing that we have to do and promote, we have to do it for ourselves. We need to promote the way we do with foreign films. If we do that, we’re going to go beyond the mark. “If ose nor sell u, street nor go buy u.” We have to talk about our films, our actors. I’m so proud of Desmond Finney and Jimmy B.
Sa. J: What would be your advice to President Bio on the film industry?
DBV: I think I have said that already. Build, Mr. President! Build for the industry! Build for the future! Don’t give today because of politics. Let us build something for the entertainment industry, let us create a university, let us create a degree program, let us create a school, let us create an auditorium where they will have to go and do their stuff. So the kids coming after will be interested.