Avaunt Presents: A Million Waves Daniel Ali documents a tale of tragedy and triumph on the shores of Sierra Leone

In 2014, west Africa was struck by the worst outbreak of Ebola in history, killing thousands. In Sierra Leone, Kadiatu Kamara, known as KK, lost her father to the virus, but would come to find an unlikely escape from the horror of the epidemic at the Bureh Beach Surf Club. Supposedly the only female surfer in the country, KK was the focus of a 2016 short film by Daniel Ali and Louis Leeson. Here Avaunt speaks to Ali about the origins of the film and the challenges he faced in making it.

Where did the idea for this film come from?

I try to make the most of friends or family living abroad, to experience a little bit of culture and see things I wouldn’t normally see, and at the time I had a friend living in Sierra Leone. I had done some research to see if there was anything different I could focus on and that’s when I found the Bureh Beach Surf Club – the only surf club in the country.

I was looking into this just after the Ebola epidemic had begun and I had to wait to see what would happen. In that time the beach started to be featured in surfing magazines and websites, but because of the epidemic no one wanted to go there.

When did you manage to get out there?

As soon as I heard that the epidemic was over I booked my flight. It was clear that it was not affecting the area anymore so we headed straight for the beach and the club, and that’s where we met KK. I had seen videos of her before but I didn’t realise she was the only female surfer there – she seemed like the obvious person to focus on.

How did KK react to you approaching her?

She was quite reserved at first. Even though she had really good English you could tell she was holding something back. But because I had been in discussions with the surf club and other people, eventually she realised my intentions were quite honest. One day, she decided she was happy to take part.

What were the challenges of working there?

When we got out there, we realised that decent surfers went out in the morning or the evening, when the tide was coming in, which worked out perfect for the light. Then it came down to when KK was free because she was going to school and worked at various places, so it was a case of trying not to take all of her time up. It also depended on how well she surfed, what the weather was like, what the waves were like – I just shot the hell out of it and hoped for the best.

Launching in January 2017, Avaunt Presents brings you the very best short films from around the web.

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