NU-Q professor’s documentary premieres at international film festival

April 27, 2021

A new documentary film about the grim reality of slavery and the diamond industry in Africa, directed by Northwestern Qatar Professor João Queiroga, will have its world premiere at the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival in Toronto.

The film - Digging for Lifetells the true story of Adiang Assuoe Thomas Germain (Tommy) who leaves his home in Cameroon for post-apartheid South Africa, hoping to start a new chapter of his life, but finds himself trapped as a slave digging for diamonds in Angola. 

Hot Docs International Documentary Festival is the largest documentary festival in North America. Digging for Life will premiere at the festival on April 29. Queiroga and Germain, who produced and acted in the film, hope that by sharing this story they will give a voice to the many who remain enslaved and invisible. 

“As a filmmaker, it was particularly important to me to work collaboratively with Tommy, to allow him to take ownership of his story and inherent film depiction,” Queiroga said. “We combined my technical ability with his genuine and authentic desire to share his story with the world to create a film that can create actions, advocate ideals, and promote human rights.”

Creating the film was a grounding and profound experience for Queiroga who said he found himself reflecting on the repercussions of his Portuguese heritage on the lives of Black Africans, “a heritage that planted the seeds of racism and oppression in Angola. The making of this film is a reminder of the work that remains to be done,” he said.

“Storytelling is a powerful tool that could inspire change and help one process their healing individually and collectively.” He added, “While I’m not able to speak for Tommy, I understand that the making of this film was a cathartic experience for him that allows us to reconcile with our own pain. If Tommy is able to free himself from his past, so can we!”

The team behind the film includes several Northwestern alums, including Kevin Patrick Gorey ‘16 and Jesseca Ynez Simmons ‘16 from the Evanston campus as producers, and Northwestern Qatar students Nur Munawarah ‘21 and Aljawhara Al-Adba ‘21 as assistant editors, as well as alumni Nouf Al-Sulaiti ‘18 as a consulting producer and Reem Al-Ahmad ‘20 as social media coordinator. 

Alongside the film’s world premiere at the Hot Docs Festival, Queiroga said he is working with local producers to arrange for screenings in Cameroon and Angola. “Beyond shining light on the journey of our main character through the film, we hope the film can start a conversation among local Cameroonians that can ultimately save human lives,” Queiroga said.