Disturbing Documentary Graphically Chronicles Sierra Leone's Civil War
The Empire in Africa
In French, English and local dialects with subtitles.
Running time: 87 minutes
Studio: Cinema Libre
Film Review by Kam Williams
Excellent (4 stars)
If you want an unblinking, bird's eye view of man's inhumanity to man, then look no further than The Empire in Africa, a shocking film featuring more bloodletting than your average teen slasher flick, only for real. Narrated by Richie Havens, this almost unbearable expose’ chronicles the civil strife inside Sierra Leone.
Amputees in camp of Murray Town
Photo: Henry Rossier
For fifteen years, rebels have attempted to wrest control of the country from a ruthless regime which has ruled by any means necessary at the behest of powerful, neo-imperial interests. Apparently, these mighty mega-corporations control 100% of the economy, and could care less what form of repressive tactics are employed by their puppet potentate, so long as he is able to guarantee their continued unimpeded access to the nation's natural resources.
Somehow afforded an unusual opportunity to observe the unrelenting bloodletting, director Philippe Diaz's cameras capture extreme close-ups of torture of every nature. From amputations of children's limbs to beheadings of traitors' heads to executions of anybody simply suspected of sympathizing with the enemy, Sierra Leone is a godforsaken hell on Earth that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
Is a documentary crossing an ethical line when it graphically depicts such senseless slaughter without averting the lens? How about if it shows a flock of buzzards picking at a pile of corpses? Or if it calmly interviews a frightened prisoner moments before his body is ripped to shreds by a burst of gunfire from an automatic weapon?
Arrest of a kid in Freetown
Regardless, this host of horrors is rife with shocking scenarios certain to induce nightmares, yet a most convincing indictment of the West, including its governments, multi-nationals, mass media, and even the United Nations as un-indicted co-conspirators in the exploitation of not merely Sierra Leone, but of most of Africa. Highly recommended as a sobering companion piece to Hollywood's relatively-sanitized version of the same subject-matter in Blood Diamond.
Just remember, not for the squeamish. You wuz warned.
(Opens 12/8 in NYC)