A child soldier's long road to recovery
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Hazel Chandler is an award winning director/writer/producer of documentaries, drama and current affairs, based in London and Sierra Leone. She received her masters in Film and TV from the Royal College of Art, London, and started Wilderness Productions in 2004 to focus on feature documentaries strong personal stories with international appeal; often exploring human rights issues. She has completed a range of powerful films all over the world for broadcasters BBC, Channel 4, Discovery US, Teachers TV, Aljazeera International and MTV. She also made 80 music promos.
There was never a plan; I met Yumyum and the gang whilst shooting something else and promised I would go back, so I did. Giving Yumyum a camera was never planned either but it changed my life. It took a year before I felt I could hang out with them and feel completely safe. There also came a point when it did not seem right to keep filming these boys without trying to help and so I set about trying to support some of them off the streets. Keeping tabs on them was no small achievement. When the police raided they scattered and sometimes had to be searched out in another town. As a filmmaker I had many fears. When I gave Yumyum the camera I worried about him using it to make porn or deliberately setting up scenarios so that he could film them but this did not seem to occur to him. I worried about Yumyum moving to Freetown, for him and for the kids left behind. There was no one like Yumyum to step in as leader and they would be left to their own devices. I worried about helping just a few. Would that make them the subject of envy? How could I justify not helping the others? You can only do what you can do.