Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Watch-A-Thon: Day 8

[Rambling on movies I've hit as part of this year's Brattle Theatre Movie Watch-A-Thon. For the running count of 'thon films with titles, sans commentary, look here]

    trailer | website
    NOT the feel-good-hit-of-the-summer, but I hafta say, THE REDEMPTION OF GENERAL BUTT NAKED is a helluva film. A really well-crafted documentary with some amazing access to the subject over the span of five years, and edited so that its viewpoint remains as objective as possible.

    On the personal scale, it's an almost unbelievable situation (a known killer reinvents himself as a holy man), but on top of that, stepping back to a national / societal level, it demonstrates an impossible issue that many nations born or reborn in strife have to deal with. An issue most likely in the future of more than a couple of countries across the globe. Heck, we even deal with it to a degree in the U.S. Basically, what is a society to do with the likes of a General Butt Naked (a violent revolutionary and warlord) once the fighting is over and a government is in place, rebuilding, and ideally, meting out justice? Some of the General's warlord counterparts have ended up in the new parliament in Liberia, but apparently none will own up to the crimes they committed during the years of war. Joshua (the General's real name), having found God, claims he is ready to face punishment for his crimes, and has begun a perhaps lifelong journey to find every victim or survivor of his crimes and ask their forgiveness, as well as help as many of his previous child soldiers get on their feet as productive, God fearing citizens of Liberia. So, you've got ex-warlord politicians protecting their status by denying their crimes, and one ex-warlord evangelist seeking to make up for the tragedies he caused by turning lives around. Who do you put on trial?

    There's also the matter of the actual making/shooting of this film having an effect on Joshua's encounters with survivors and victims. You know, the "reality show" and quantum physics thing about how a result can be changed by the act of observing it? I wonder how the scenes we see in the film would have unfolded without documentary film cameras present. Butt Naked the General and Joshua the evangelist are both charismatic performers.

    Anyhow, I highly recommend it at the end of a REALLY Good day, when you feel like you can handle a fantastic true story that's built on a lot of tragedy. Y'know, like BRING IT ON, but with Kirsten Dunst as an apparently reformed merciless killer.

    Or something. =)

    Probably best seen with company so you can discuss afterward.
    [Brattle blurb]
    Directed by Eric Strauss and Danielle Anastasion

    Joshua Milton Blahyi (aka General Butt Naked) was a ruthless and feared warlord during Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Today, he has renounced his violent past and reinvented himself as a Christian evangelist on a journey of self-proclaimed transformation. Blahyi travels the nation of Liberia as a preacher, seeking out those he once victimized in search of an uncertain forgiveness. But in the end, are some crimes beyond the pale of forgiveness?

    Dubbed “General Butt Naked” for fighting with nothing more than an AK-47 and a pair of leather shoes, Blahyi believed he possessed supernatural powers that made him impervious to bullets. The General and his army of child soldiers are said to have killed thousands during Liberia’s horrific civil war.

    Following a dramatic conversion to Christianity, the General abruptly laid down his weapons in 1996, leaving behind his soldiers, his country and a war that would rage for another seven years.

    Today, Blahyi is on a quest for redemption: facing those he once terrorized, preaching where he once murdered, and trying to rebuild the shattered lives of those he commanded during the war. For five years, filmmakers Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion tracked his often troubling path up-close, finding both the genuine and disconcerting in Blahyi’s efforts. The film forces us to question the very nature of what true, meaningful reconciliation looks like in a country where justice has not been available.

    Keep on keepin on~

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