Army vet now ‘underground’ filmmaker, has Mattapan roots

Alex Owens, Special to the Reporter
May. 10, 2012

Amidst Hollywood’s recent gritty fixation on Boston’s crime scene, local filmmakers, such as Sieh “C-Ya” Samura, of Mattapan, continue to tell stories relevant to our diverse city. Samura’s latest film “Block Reportin’ 101” deals with issues in urban communities around the city and nation, including alleged police brutality.

Sieh Samura was born in Wellington (near Arlington, MA) in 1977, and is the oldest of four children. As a child, Samura moved around the country with his family, as his mother was deployed to different locations in her career as a colonel in a medical battalion in the US Army. The family eventually settled in South Lake Tahoe, California, where he graduated high school.

Samura went on to pursue higher education in the state of his birth, moving back to Boston, first to Grove Hall and later to Mattapan, with his father in 1995. He earned his associate degree in History at Roxbury Community College in 1997.

It was at RCC that Samura discovered his love for film and photography, and he went on to develop his understanding of those arts, by taking extra classes at both the Massachusetts College of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts. He moved back to California briefly, to enroll in the film studies program at San Francisco State University.

“At that time, film school was still something that was elite, that only the upper class people would participate in,” Samura said. “It was really cutthroat.”

Turned off by the Hollywood style of film, Samura moved back to Boston in 1998.

The son of a nurse and a teacher, a strong sense of community service was instilled in Samura — lessons of responsibility which would lead him to follow in his mother’s footsteps, serving in the National Guard and the Army. Samura was also engaged as a Massachusetts State Ranger, and a mental health counselor before being deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004.

Samura continued his education in film, earning a degree in Communication from Fitchburg State College, now known as Fitchburg State University in 2006, and studying with the now dissolved Boston Film & Video Foundation. He also worked as an intern on WGBH’s long running “Basic Black” program, where he honed a documentary style and an eye for issues affecting communities of color.

“I want to fight for the underground and the underdog,” he said. “I wanted to be able to frame their stories before the corporate powers do.”

Samura traveled to his father’s homeland of Sierra Leone to shoot his first feature documentary, “Sweet Salone” in 2007, covering the country’s emerging music culture.

“I wanted to encourage a positive, honest outlook about a part of the world that no one really cared about,” Samura’s micro budget, independent and underground style is continued in his newest film, “Block Reportin’ 101,” a documentary film which covers several issues in urban communities, prominently featuring police brutality.

“Because I’m independent, I can go anywhere. I don’t have to wait for Hollywood’s thumb up,” said Samura. “I’m a guerrilla.”

Samura hopes to continue to shed light on lesser known subcultures and alternative perspectives. Samura plans to engage a wider audience as well, submitting “Block Reportin’ 101” to local film festivals.

“It’s about the people in the neighborhood – small stories,” said Samura. “Whatever my next project is, I know it’s definitely going to be underground.”