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Sankara's Orphans

Sankara's Orphans

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Thomas Sankara came to power in Burkina Faso in 1983, with the promise of a revolutionary government that would transform the West African country. To help build the revolution, he sent 600 children — many orphans from rural areas — to be educated in Cuba. But after Sankara’s assassination, the children were stranded. The last would only return to Burkina Faso in 2005.

SANKARA’S ORPHANS tells their stories through interviews with some of the 600, along with archival footage of their lives on Cuba’s Isle of Youth — where both Sankara and Fidel Castro came to visit. Along with their education, the children worked in the fields and received weapons training. This, combined with their idealism, frightened the new Burkina Faso regime, which worried they might return and take up arms.

When they finally return home, it is to an underdeveloped country not interested in their skills. An ob/gyn is shocked at the state of the country’s hospitals, and regrets having to work at a for-profit clinic after hours to make ends meet. A geologist helps oversee work at a gold mine, while an agronomist scrambles to make a living on a desolate agricultural property. “We were the revolution's spare parts,” he says. And when the revolution is over, nobody cares about the spare parts. Nearly 30 years on, the group remains in touch, finding community in their shared experience.

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