Bronx, NY – A feature length documentary, made with an HBO Life Through Your Lens Emerging Filmmaker Award Grant, “The Death of Two Sons,” was screened at Bronx Community College. It parallels the lives of Guinean Amadou Diallo who died tragically in New York and an American Peace Corps Volunteer from California who died months later in a traffic accident while living with the Diallo family in Guinea.
The “The Death of Two Sons” was screened during International Education Week in November at Bronx Community College, West 181st Street and University Avenue. One key message delivered to students by the movie was that if we don’t learn that it’s our responsibility to make the world a better place then we have no future.
President Carolyn G. Williams greeted some 250 students who saw the documentary, saying to students, “Continue to stay engaged. It’s all about exchange, sharing ideas and getting to know other people. On our campus, with 109 nationalities, there is such rich diversity. There is so much we can learn from each other.”
Following the movie Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou and a benefactor of scholarships in her son’s name to Bronx Community and Borough of Manhattan Community Colleges of The City University of New York, spoke to students.
“There is something that I wanted to tell people who see this movie,” stated Ms. Diallo. “This is a story about two wonderful young men, one of whom was white, Jesse Thyne, and one of whom was black, Amadou Diallo. Amadou and Jesse are two individuals who crossed the ocean. Jesse went to Africa to change the world in his own way; Amadou, my son, crossed the ocean to come here and get an education, but he never got the chance.
“Amadou’s death was something preventable here. New York has grieved with us, embraced us and we wanted to make something positive out of it. This is why we are here. We want to continue to touch people in a positive way so that something good will come out of his death,” she added.
“Everything is education,” Ms. Diallo stressed. “We have much to learn between us and more to learn when we cross the barrier of isolation and seek to bring the world closer. After all, we are one human family. We know that what happened to Amadou was wrong.
“Ever since the day of his death, I have dedicated my life to do all I can to touch even one person, every single day, until I meet him again. I believe by BCC students being here and the film being viewed everywhere by many people, this movie will help tell us more about our lives,” Ms. Diallo stated.
Producer of the movie, Alrick Brown, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in the Ivory Coast, who, with Micah Shaffer, the film’s director and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, explained why they had made the movie.
“The biggest story was not told about Amadou Diallo’s life. He was demonized and dehumanized. Then we turned him into an icon. He became the symbol for brutality and excessive force. Somehow in the middle of all the news stories, we didn’t know his name. We didn’t know where he came from. People talked about marching, but we didn’t know where Guinea was on the map. We didn’t know that he spoke three languages. We didn’t know that he had relatives in Guinea and he grew up and went to school in Togo, Bangkok, Thailand and Singapore where he earned a computer degree. All that the news stories said was that he was a poor African immigrant,” stated Mr. Brown who is currently studying for his master’s degree in film at New York University.
During the question and answer period, a BCC student from Guinea was so moved by Amadou’s life that he stated that he believed his own life could have met the same ending.
Producer Alrick Brown, who had just returned from England where he had screened the documentary at several movie festivals, was asked how come “The Death of Two Sons” has not been aired on HBO.
“I don’t know. Some stations like certain types of films and other stations do not. We decided not to go in the sensational direction of graphic violence with the film because of our respect for the Diallo & Thyne families, members of whom appear in the documentary. There was no need to.”
Mr. Brown added, “People are able to deal with the sensational stuff, but somehow the humanity is even scarier. This is a film that should be seen by everyone because of its humanity. It’s not an ego thing about our work as director and producer. We just think that it is important.”
Explaining her hopes for the movie, Mrs. Diallo said, “My main goal as Amadou’s mother is to give my son back a little justice, because he was denied justice completely. I want people to come together and join hands and do something positive after this film has been viewed. People can read my book, “My Heart Will Cross This Ocean.” People who are not related can learn the culture and the language. Students who are benefiting from the Amadou Diallo Scholarships can learn about the school I am trying to build in Africa. Perhaps BCC students can go to Africa one day for exchanges. These are my goals.”
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