Sankara's Orphans

Directed by Géraldine Berger

84 minutes / Color
French; Spanish; Lyélé / English subtitles
Release: 2022
Copyright: 2018

Thomas Sankara came to power in Burkina Faso in 1983, with the promise of a revolutionary government that would transform the West African country. To help build the revolution, he sent 600 children — many orphans from rural areas — to be educated in Cuba. But after Sankara’s assassination, the children were stranded. The last would only return to Burkina Faso in 2005.

SANKARA’S ORPHANS tells their stories through interviews with some of the 600, along with archival footage of their lives on Cuba’s Isle of Youth — where both Sankara and Fidel Castro came to visit. Along with their education, the children worked in the fields and received weapons training. This, combined with their idealism, frightened the new Burkina Faso regime, which worried they might return and take up arms.

When they finally return home, it is to an underdeveloped country not interested in their skills. An ob/gyn is shocked at the state of the country’s hospitals, and regrets having to work at a for-profit clinic after hours to make ends meet. A geologist helps oversee work at a gold mine, while an agronomist scrambles to make a living on a desolate agricultural property. “We were the revolution's spare parts,” he says. And when the revolution is over, nobody cares about the spare parts. Nearly 30 years on, the group remains in touch, finding community in their shared experience.

“A moving film, overwhelming in truth, sincerity and fraternity.” —TV5 Monde

“Recommended! Audiences interested in post colonialism in Africa will find the documentary especially beneficial.” —Kara Van Abel, Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)

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Select Accolades

  • Grand Prize for Documentary, Cotonou International Cinema Festival 2020
  • Jury Prize, International Film Festival of Pessac 2019
  • FESPACO Pan-African Film Festival 2019
  • Cannes International Pan-African Film Festival 2019
  • Amiens International Film Festival 2019
  • Rasnov Film and Histories Festival 2020
  • New York African Film Festival 2022


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