Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Beasts of No Nation": chilling tale of a child-soldier "drafted" by rebels in Africa creates controversy by its distribution

Beasts of No Nation” (2015), directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, is creating controversy not only for its subject matter but also with its distribution.
This is an epic film (137 minutes, wide screen) about the absurdity of war, and how it pins ordinary people with the moral “blame”.

The thrust of the plot is the conscription of a boy Agu (Abraham Attah) after his African village is destroyed by fighting rebel and government troops.  The boy had lived in a Christian home with a father, grandparents, older brother and younger sister.  The boy is unable to escape on overcrowded trucks, and winds up being captured by rebel teens and eventually indoctrinated into the guerillas by the Commandant leader (Irdis Elba).

The scenes of “brainwashing” the boys into military obedience are quite striking, but remind me of some similar rhetoric when I was in Army Basic myself in 1968. 

Eventually government and UN troops will overrun the rebels, but not until the boy hears astonishing rhetoric from the Commandant like “all sons must protect their fathers”.  The boy will be repatriated and return to childhood, maybe not fully grasping what has happened.  (The final scene reminds me of the way Alban Berg’s opera “Wozzeck” ends.)

The actually filming location was apparently Ghana.  The squalor of larger cities (Accra?) sometimes appears. 

The official site is here

The film was produced in part by Netflix and released on demand at the same time as the theatrical release by Bleecker Street.  As a result, several theater chains are angry (AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Carmike) and boycott the film, which benefits from large screen project (Regal’s “Go big or go home”).

The film is showing at two Landmark theaters in DC, but on weekends the Metro is slowed down by single-tracking and delays, so it takes too much time to go in and see it when I can watch it at home with my Netflix subscription.  If you want me to buy a ticket, make it easier to see.  Real world infrastructure matters.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Kakum Park in Ghana by “Minham0910”, under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 /

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