War Child

Movies Reviews Emmanuel Jal
War Child

Release Date: Currently showing in select cities
Director: Christian Karim Chrobog

Cinematographer: S.J. Staniski
Studio/Run Time: Reelu Films, 92 mins.
Former Sudanese child soldier gives human face to Africa relief efforts

Director Christian Karim Chrobog does an admirable job of playing historian and biographer, using the conflict of the SPLA and the invading Arabs as a backdrop for Jal’s journey from Sudan to London. Even more interesting are the reactions that greet Jal’s music afterward; watching American girls hesitantly grind to the lyrics “Children of Darfur / Your empty bellies on the telly / It’s you I’m fighting for” illustrates Jal’s burden of presenting a very unsexy subject in a music genre oftentimes defined by pleasure and hedonism. By the end of the film, though, it’s clear that Jal possesses a singular quality that allows him to touch the soul of anyone who will listen: unadultured hope.

Jal straddles the rare line between post-traumatic war victim and pacifist heart throb: while lecturing a college class, he bashfully asks the female students for the phone numbers of single friends after explaining how he ate raw vultures while fleeing the resistance army in brilliant detail. This disarming irony creates an introspective question that runs through the heart of the film: How can one man who’s passed through the horrors of war come out the other end smiling and optimistic to change it? If this philanthropic, charming 20-something could be implicated in such depravity, then anyone can be

—not just members of post-colonial third worlds. It’s a frightening dichotomy for every closet racist who assumes that war, rape and genocide are indigenous to savage cultures and mentalities isolated thousands of miles away.

Despite the flood of benefit concerts and newspaper headlines that have illuminated human rights violations in northeastern Africa this past decade, humanitarian movements have lacked a human appeal to link the faceless statistics of genocide to the sympathizing human psyche. Emmanuel Jal, an international hip-hop MC and former child fighter in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, aims to fill that void as the new ambassador of these atrocities in the documentary War Child.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin