Sunday, June 22, 2008

Emmanuel Jal: War Child (2008)

The SIFF ended on Sunday, June 15. The last film of my 2008 festival experience seemed fitting for a grand finale.

Emmanuel was a child soldier in Sudan during the religious civil war of the 80s and 90s. This is his story. This poignant documentary traces the hell he waded through, the luck that struck him when he may not have made it otherwise and how music has helped him through it all. As he leads us through his incredible story of survival, he is serene but his sadness is palpable.

Now a successful hip hop performer living in the UK, none of his music contains profanity. Instead he raps about what he's lived through, his country's struggles and his Africa--with a goal to unite.

Watching this 93-minute film, you realize he can't possibly detail all the horrors he experienced, but I was in awe at how he did it. I'm amazed at his ability to forgive and also to move on and grow. He hasn't forgotten about his people either. You see his efforts to help his family live well. You see him help build a school in his hometown.

There are a few gaps in this documentary that left me in the dark about how he got from a few places but overall, it was an experience that spotlighted a person's ability to overcome and survive against enormous odds. You see how little our country does for Africa. With our focus on the Middle East, you don't always hear about the starvation, child soldiers and people caught up in wars that don't revolve around oil.

Themes: war, music, survival, child abandonment

Director: C. Karim Chrobog

Country: US

Genre: Documentary

Time: 93 minutes

Scale: 4

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