Diana Szanto

Grant Type

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Budapest Corvinus U.

Grant number

Gr. 9721

Approve Date

October 10, 2018

Project Title

Szanto, Dr. Diana E., U. Corvinus, Budapest, Hungary - To aid filmmaking on 'Walpole Street' - Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Preliminary abstract: This is a collective film project based on my field-work in Sierra Leone, amongst polio-disabled people living in self-sustaining communities. Through the story of a young disabled boy, Manish, the film captures how historical time and its macro-political work (war and peacebuilding) shape the micro-realities of individual lives. Manish is a war-survivor and he squats with many of his fellow disabled in an abandoned house in Freetown: Walpole Street. He recreates there a recomposed family with two strangers, Hady and Edward, recently migrated from Guniea. The three establish a musical group, The Walpoleans, which painstakingly self-trains itself to some success. Walpole Street is evicted but the ‘family’ survives. Manish is tormented by his past but finds consolation in this collectivity, in music, and in the memory of Walpole Street, which becomes for him a lost paradise, but gives him also hope for the future. The ethnographic content of the film includes moments of Manish’ life, the tribulations of the Walpoleans and everyday moments in the polio-squats, moments of individual and collective joy, threatened by ordinary precarity and eruptions of extraordinary events of violence. Manish’ sudden death elevates his personal story to a universal level, triggering reflections about the meaning of anthropological work,vulnerability and hope, suffering and resistance amidst the conditions of present-day predatory capitalism in a shadow state. Unlike most other filmic production on disability in Africa, this project gives a true tribute to the extraordinary agency of disabled people, but it also undermines ideas about their singularity, presenting polio-disabled squaters as part of the larger community of the urban poor maintaining an ambiguous relation to public spaces and to the state.