On July 18, 2002 in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, a backwater town located about 70 km west of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, hundreds of unarmed civilians, including women, children and babies, were trucked to a bridge over the Maher River, accused of being sympathizers of a dissident rebel faction. Ordered to disembark the trucks, some were shot, others were hacked to death, and the heads of babies were smashed against the railings of the bridge before being thrown into the water below. No major news outlet ran with the story. In fact, besides a few survivors’ testimonies that have since gathered dust in various godforsaken reports, the massacre that took place on that day is not known to many.
But all that may soon change because of Liberian filmmaker and award-winning video journalist, Derick Snyder’s latest full-featured film: Maher, Black Rain in Bomi, which is based on the massacre that occurred that day.
Snyder is no stranger behind the camera. He is a stringer for Reuters News Agency and a 2014 winner of the Mohamed Amin Africa Media Award for his work covering the devastating Ebola pandemic that ravaged his nation in 2014. In a video interview after winning the award, Snyder said that despite his own fear for his safety, he felt it was important to tell the story of Ebola’s devastation in his nation.
“I’m only doing it because the story got to go and that’s my job,” he intimated.
Apparently, it is that same commitment to share his nation’s story with the world that has spurred him on to produce Maher, Black Rain in Bomi, a project he had been nurturing for several years.
“I found out about the massacre in 2007 when I was working as a journalist. I got the story from a survivor of the massacre. And, after hearing of such horrific tragedy, I decided that rather than letting the story disappear, I would make a movie based around those events. So, like the producers of Titanic did when they created a love narrative around the true events of the sinking of the Titanic, I decided to write a script based around the massacre,” Snyder said.
According to the testimony of a survivor of the massacre named Moses Bridge, before Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008, the victims were told by the militia of former President of Liberia and convicted war criminal, Charles Taylor, after they had retaken Tubmanburg following the retreat of the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels, that they would be transported to Monrovia where they would receive relief supplies and be safe from the fighting.
However, Bridge said that after the truck transporting him and his wife, along with others, arrived at the Maher Bridge, his wife was ordered out of the truck first and sensing that she would be killed, her last words to him were: “I know I am going to die so goodbye. Remember we promised each other that only death will do us apart.” Bridge said his wife was then shot and her body mutilated.
When his turn came, he said he was ordered to sit on the railings of the bridge before being pushed down, followed by a hail of gunfire as he plummeted into the water below. However, he survived the hail of bullets and was able to swim to the river’s edge where he witnessed the execution of hundreds of people into the night.
“The next day after the killings, when I came from my hiding place, the entire surface of the water and bridge were covered with blood,” Bridge told the commission.
Maher, Black Rain in Bomi tells the story of Barbara Smith, a gung-ho American war correspondent played by Stephanie Mary, who was working undercover in Tubmanburg following reports of atrocities being committed by the fighters before the massacre occurred. So, when the massacre took place, Barbara doggedly tried to record the atrocities, even at the risk of her own life, to let the world know about the war crimes taking place there.
Surreptitiously filming various atrocities with her spy watch and spy pen
cameras, she refuses to leave even after the US government becomes concerned about her safety and clandestinely sends two elite commandos to get her out. Not long after their arrival though, her cover is blown and the rescue mission soon culminates into an all out battle between the US commandos and the militia fighters.
The challenge of filming such an action-packed film requiring high-tech equipment for movie special effects and adequate funding is a tall order in Liberia, a country with an underdeveloped movie industry. But, committed to telling the story of his nation, Snyder soldiered on to bring his film to fruition.
“The whole movie was made right here in Liberia. And I self-funded it with the cash prize that I received as a winner of the Mohamed Amin award,” Synder said.
Against tough odds, Synder has produced a riveting movie about a painful chapter in Liberia’s recent history nonetheless, but it is one that certainly deserves telling. The trailer for Maher, Black Rain in Bomi has received over 19,000 views on the Facebook page of Hott FM 107.9, one of Liberia’s premiere radio stations, along with many positive reviews.
Snyder is now seeking to forge partnerships with film distributors to promote Maher, Black Rain in Bomi to a global audience. To help him achieve his goal, you can connect with him on Facebook or call him @ +(231)777-587-443.