The driving force behind Lions & Tigers is a determination to have a positive impact on the lives of those it portrays, and on the wider population of South Sudan. Throughout production to date we have partnered with local and international NGOs, and we will continue to do so in order to raise awareness of, and create change in, the issues raised by the film.
Lions & Tigers provides a unique window into the tragic events of South Sudan’s short history through the eyes of those who have been directly affected. No other film has covered the period since 2013, when war broke out and dramatically changed the course of the country’s fortunes – and with it the course of the lives of those who feature in the film.
The crisis in South Sudan has had a profound impact on the lives of the country's wheelchair basketball players. Through their experiences, the film shines a light on critical issues such as refugees and displacement; poverty; land mines; child soldiers; attitudes to race, to the disabled, and to minorities; the rehabilitative power of sport; conflict and its impact on ordinary people; political abuses and the disempowerment of citizens; media freedom and the freedom of speech.
Beyond being a reflection of South Sudan's tumultuous journey, the experiences of the characters in the film are a microcosm for some of the most pressing issues facing humanity in 2021. How does a country look after its vulnerable and disadvantaged, and what responsibility does it have to do so? How does a government ensure that the rights of people of differing ethnicities are equally recognised and respected? How does it manage the relationship between these groups? How do citizens do this on a community level?
The UN describes the crisis in South Sudan as one of the gravest in history. The country has the third-largest refugee crisis in the world; more than a third of the population have been displaced from their homes, and six out of 10 children are refugees. Three-quarters of the population are in need of aid, and more than six million are on the brink of famine. Since 2020, South Sudan’s plight has been deepened by global pandemic that it is ill-equipped to tackle.
South Sudan’s crisis is critically under-reported, and the longer conflict has persisted the more authoritarian the regime has become. Reporting from South Sudan is heavily restricted by the state. During the recent years of civil war the government has further hardened its attitudes to media freedoms. Newspapers are routinely censored or shut down; journalists are harassed, imprisoned, and sometimes killed.
For those South Sudanese most deeply impacted by the crisis in their country, the issues they face could not be more urgent. South Sudan has been in a state of war for two-thirds of its lifetime. Prior to independence in 2011, this same land was at war for almost five decades. As long as this crisis remains obscured from public view there is little hope that this will change.
South Sudan’s divisions are stark. But in a global age characterised by resurgent nationalism, division, isolationism and a break-down in trust, there is a universality to these issues. Throughout the world, those who do not fit with a particular idea of national identity, often defined along narrow lines of politics, religion and race, are being excluded and demonised.
This film challenges the audience to reflect how as a collective we can transcend the challenges the world is facing and find a way of living that is more harmonious, and more in tune with our wellbeing, our values, and our planet.