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30.11.2019 Liberia

Love in the time of Ebola: 'Hell's Gate' opens in Liberia

By AFP
An Ebola outbreak raged in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in 2014-16, killing more than 11,300 people across the three countries.  By Hugh Kinsella Cunningham (AFP)
NOV 30, 2019 LIBERIA
An Ebola outbreak raged in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in 2014-16, killing more than 11,300 people across the three countries. By Hugh Kinsella Cunningham (AFP)

A new Liberian film named "Hell's Gate" premieres Friday in the capital Monrovia, about two lovers whose wedding plans are upended when the deadly Ebola virus strikes.

An outbreak of the disease raged in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in 2014-16, killing more than 11,300 people across the three countries.

"There is a need to have a document on what devastated our country during the Ebola outbreak," the film's executive producer Cosme Pulano told AFP.

Already decimated by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, Liberia was the country the worst hit by the West African Ebola crisis. More than 4,800 people died.

Pulano said he hoped "Hell's Gate" would serve an educational purpose since the disease "could return anytime."

West Africa is currently free of Ebola but the Democratic Republic of Congo has an ongoing outbreak. The much-feared virus has killed 2,199 there since August 2018.

Not everyone in Monrovia is keen on revisiting the painful episode.

"I am not going there," said Adams Zeogar, an Ebola survivor, referring to the film.

Although he agreed that discussing Ebola was important, he said he wanted to avoid reminders of "this horrible past".

Other people touched by the crisis were more positive.

"For me it's a great experience," said Dahsaw Owusu, who plays the main character's best friend in the film. The actor lost a brother and an aunt to Ebola.

The executive producer, who is also an employee at Liberia's presidential affairs ministry, barely escaped Ebola himself.

At one point during the outbreak he suffered strong headaches, he told AFP, and family members avoided him suspecting he had fallen sick.

Pulano ignored advice to visit an Ebola clinic after his sister argued that he would already have died if he were infected.

"Entering an Ebola Treatment Unit was like entering hell," he said, explaining the title of the film.

"Hell's Gate" -- which cost some $40,000 (36,300 euros) to produce -- is entirely Liberian made.

All of the 169 cast and crew members are Liberian, and Pulano wrote the script after interviewing local doctors and Ebola victims.

"There is a need for us to tell our own story," he said.

Fifteen percent of the profits will go toward Ebola orphans, according to Pulano.

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