Liberia, the Secret War[video]
Light is swallowed by the thick wet green. Time is a different creature in the jungle. Faster, more vivid. Shapes change around their cores. Juju rules here – the law of inner spaces. This is the Bush Devil’s home and body, his bride and her womb. The bush commando is reborn here. Here he takes the juju medicine that makes him invincible.
featuring Charles Taylor, Sam Doe, Jack the Rebel, Solo and General Diamond
guerilla camera Jonathan Sahn
editor Evert Pater produced by Alexandre Trudeau and Booker Sim
written and directed by Alexandre Trudeau, Booker Sim and Malcolm Hearn
1989. Enraged by hundreds of years of slavery and imperialism, the Bush Devils go to war for the soul of Liberia. Small boys clutch dolls and lug AK-47s. For six years, war spreads through the jungle like a virus, with some 250 000 dead and millions more displaced. The world looks away. It seems the crisis is a deep disturbance of a savage, primitive spirit – a long way from our comfortable living rooms.
April the 6th, 1996. War bursts out of the obscurity of the jungle into Monrovia, capital of Africa’s first republic, home of American freed-slave settlers. Corpses crowd the living off the streets. Ghost warriors with juju totems fight and dance. They wear wedding dresses and Donald Duck masks, they have mirrorshades for eyes. The global media decries this “savagery,” but sells clips of it for $1000 a second. CNN, ABC, BBC, Newsweek, Time. All eyes are open.
1997. A tenuous and short-lived peace is established. Fresh out of McGill philosophy, Alexandre Trudeau foregoes film school for the school of life, teaming up with fellow philosophy graduates and childhood friends Booker Sim and Malcolm Hearn in search of the story of Liberia and its people, so long hidden in the perverse narrative of imperialism and slavery.
Unpolished yet stylized, naïve yet well informed, this paradoxical film matches the rhythm of a rap video with pulsing footage of African tropical warfare. LIBERIA: THE SECRET WAR invents a hybrid form that dissolves the barrier between juju warrior and Western viewer. It’s a film only the young and foolish would dare to make.
Charles Taylor. Jack the Rebel. General Diamond. Solo the Kid. The characters in LIBERIA : THE SECRET WAR don’t preach, but their tale is cautionary. Anarchy, chaos. It’s comforting to think these are African afflictions, but the Liberia crisis might telescope our future in a world growing ever more desperate. The depths of the crisis were our lowest lows. The jungle’s chaos sleeps in every heart. It’s beauty and knowledge, our salvation – or at least a glimpse of it.
LIBERIA: THE SECRET WAR premiered to a sold out crowd at the international Vues D’Afriques film festival, where it won the only prize in its category, subsequently screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival and in university classrooms.