A documentary which tells a story the world needs to hear...
When European nations granted independence to former colonial territories in Africa, they often left them with depleted resources, weakened social networks, and unstable political systems, not to mention the burden of an uncomfortable cultural legacy. Despite this, populations have worked hard to restore and strengthen local cultural traditions and provide opportunities for their youth.
HOLD ON HOPE recounts one Togolese man's unwavering dream to bring the music of his people to the attention of the world. Self-taught guitarist Amen Viana has made an improbable journey, against all odds, from obscurity to international prominence - playing alongside artists such as The Black Eyed Peas, Keziah Jones, and Indila. He now returns to his homeland to record a unique and magnificent album: Electric Togoland.
Inequality is addressed from the grass roots upwards through small progressive steps of recognition
Hold on Hope culminates in the optimistic and hopeful conclusion of two of the three narrative threads:
we witness Amen playing a guitar solo in front of 20,000 roaring fans in Paris – a testimony to the power of the individual to overcome material disadvantage and accomplish his dreams;
we rejoice in the successful completion of the album Electric Togoland and groove along with ecstatic crowds to an electrifying open air launch in Togo, Ghana and Benin.
The third and final thread – the fate of the Togolese people - remains unresolved. We are left with a sense that, like exquisitely coloured silk adrift in the breeze, the Togolese people have a rich and important contribution to make to the fabric of humanity. Providing an opportunity for that to occur suddenly seems right, fair and urgent. This is the underlying social driver of the documentary – to challenge audiences to overcome the institutional barriers to inequality and to actively nurture the hope that is latent in the Togolese people, Togolese diaspora and other African nations. We hope to harness this intent to raise funds for a music 'talent incubator' for Togolese youth in Lomé.
A rich culture and proud resourceful people struggling against inequality and the legacy of colonialism
Togo is a tiny African nation nestled between Ghana and Benin in the Gulf of Guinea. Over centuries it has been the subject of aggressive European exploitation, firstly through slavery, and then through extended colonial struggles (occupied successively by Portugal, Germany, England and eventually France). Along the way, self-serving negotiations by European governments have seen vast swathes of the country stripped away and allocated to neighbouring territories leaving a diminished landmass.
In the post-independence struggles, politicians who supported the political agenda of former colonial powers were endorsed and manoeuvred into place by foreign regimes. Their policies ensured the ongoing export of Togo’s resources and the impoverishment of its people. Even today, much of Togo has unpaved roads, many homes are without electricity, unemployment is rife and professional opportunities limited. Despite rich deposits of phosphate, cocoa, coffee and nuts, Togo remains one of the world’s least developed nations and the economic situation remains precarious. It is estimated that more than 50% of GDP goes towards interest repayments on international loans, making the prospect of domestic prosperity increasingly remote.
In this context, the Togolese people have become very resourceful. They maintain and develop their rich culture through a combination of local community networks and support from the increasingly large diaspora. Amen Viana’s individual journey embodies this spirit of determination : his desire to learn music even though there was no-one to teach him, his determination to succeed as an international artist, when many western artists with far greater resources have been unable to achieve this, and his decision to give back to his community through the recording of an album that pays hommage to Togo’s rich musical culture...each of these giant steps manifest this spirit of hope.