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USA, 2008, 90 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: African-American, Documentary, Drama, Music, Political
Programs: Films in Competition, Documentary FilmsLanguage: English English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: C. Karim Chrobog
Producer: C. Karim Chrobog, Afshin Molavi, (executive) Dal LaMagna, Rick Boden, Jeff Weingarten, Roshanak AmelEditor: Nels BangerterScreenwriter: C. Karim ChrobogCinematographer: S. J. StaniskiPrincipal Cast: Emmanuel Jal
In 1983, civil war erupted in Sudan. Ten thousand child soldiers were recruited to fight. One of them was Emmanuel Jal, who “left home at age seven to carry an AK-47.” With War Child, first-time director C. Karim Chrobog pays tribute to Emmanuel and all the child soldiers of Africa.
Serving as his own narrator, Emmanuel—now an international hip-hop star—tells his mind-boggling story of survival through his music (accompanied by both archival and present-day footage). After their village was attacked, Emmanuel’s father sent him from Sudan to Ethiopia on an overloaded boat that capsized and killed more than 300 people, mostly children. Emmanuel ended up in a refugee camp, where he became a spokesperson for other abandoned children. When the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army came in search of recruits, everyone joined. Having witnessed murder, arson, and rape in their villages, these youngsters sought revenge. Emmanuel himself fought in four brutal battles to avenge his mother’s death. When he and others finally escaped from the army, they had to trek over 1,000 miles without food or shelter. Emmanuel relives his near-starvation as well as the cannibalistic and suicidal urges he felt when a friend died by his side. Emma McCune—a woman he calls “an angel in my life”—rescued him, smuggling him into Kenya, where he began his musical career in a local choir. After she died in a car crash, he moved to the slums of Nairobi and started to “put my fight into the music”—which now tops the charts in Kenya and can also be heard everywhere from the BBC to the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle Blood Diamond.
Chrobog shot more than half of War Child in Africa, capturing Emmanuel as he returns to his homeland to reunite with his family, open a foundation to build schools, and work for peace throughout the region.
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