Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pray the Devil Back to Hell (LIBERIAN) DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Documentary Chronicling Pacifist Feminists’ Triumph in Liberia Arrives on DVD

Liberia was founded in 1847 by former U.S. slaves shipped back to Africa by the American Colonization Society. Unfortunately, these repatriated blacks considered themselves superior to the indigenous peoples they encountered, and so they formed a society in which the descendants of African-Americans enjoyed elite class status.
The tensions which ensued between the two groups essentially remained unaddressed until everything came to a head in 1989. That was when the first of two civil wars erupted which combined would claim over 200,000 lives and last until 2003.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell recounts the story of how a ceasefire was finally achieved, namely, through the determined efforts of a coalition of Christian and Muslim women fed up with having to beg for food and to raise their children amidst incessant slaughter, raping and looting. Led by Leymah Gbowee, a mom with a toddler, and armed only with T-shirts, signs and a willingness to die for their cause, this intrepid sisterhood stood toe-to-toe with both President Charles Taylor and with the Sierra Leone-based rebels attempting to topple his oppressive regime.
What makes this documentary so compelling are the reams of archival footage which allow us to witness, firsthand, the fighting, the peace demonstrations and the negotiations which led to the ouster of the corrupt Americo-Liberian Taylor. Ultimately, he was replaced by native Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, sub-Saharan Africa’s first elected female head of state.
A salute is in order to director Gini Reticker for this glorious tribute to a bi-partisan band of unarmed women who succeeded where government and UN intervention had failed miserably. For against the odds, they somehow managed to turn chaos into calm by marching en masse and refusing to compromise on their non-negotiable demand that the madness end once and for all.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 72 minutes
Studio: Fork Films
Distributor: Passion River Films
DVD Extras: Leymah Gbowee on Billy Moyer’s Journal, her acceptance speech receiving the JFK Profile in Courage Award, and a theatrical trailer.

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