Black People : Documentary: Brutal Liberrian warlord becomes Christian preacher

Istari

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Documentary: Brutal Liberrian warlord becomes Christian preacher
Posted by: Horace Coleman
Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:08 am (PST)

theenvelope.latimes.com/la-et-sundance-butt-naked-20110122,0,5464635.story

latimes.com

Sundance Film Festival: 'The Redemption of General Butt Naked'

The documentary follows a brutal Liberian warlord who becomes a
Christian preacher and asks forgiveness for his crimes.

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

January 22, 2011

Reporting from Park City, Utah — If character truly is destiny, what
does that say about the mind-warping trajectory of the charismatic
evangelical Christian preacher Joshua Milton Blahyi, once known as
General Butt Naked?

That name may sound silly, but it's not a joke to those who survived
Liberia's 14-year civil war — or the tens of thousands who didn't.

A stark naked warlord in that struggle, a man who has admitted to
killing thousands of people and doing unspeakable things during the
1989-2003 conflict, Blahyi is still so well-known in the country that,
says filmmaker Daniele Anastasion, "when he walks through the airport
in Monrovia you can hear it around you, 'that's Butt Naked.' People
still fear him."

Co-directed by Eric Strauss and Anastasion, "The Redemption of General
Butt Naked," which premieres Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival
and does not yet have distribution, is a compelling portrait of an
extraordinarily complex personal odyssey, a film that explores both
the power and the limitations of faith and forgiveness. "There are so
many larger-than-life aspects here," says Strauss, "that if anyone had
written it as a feature script it would have sounded absurd."

Blahyi's story is so unusual, and his personality so strong and
vibrant, that the filmmakers found — as Anastasion put it — "it was
challenging to keep track of yourself, of your own reactions. He can
be warm but then you remember what he did in the past. In the course
of a day our opinion of him would change, we tried to keep track of
each other, of where we each were. It messes with your head a little
bit."

The filmmakers, both in their 30s, began working together at the
National Geographic channel. The project started when Strauss came
across a mention of Blahyi in a book called "The World's Most
Dangerous Places."

"It was just a tiny blurb about a notorious warlord who had killed
thousands and was now walking the streets preaching truth and
reconciliation," he remembers. "I wondered, 'Could someone like this
really exist?'"

Adds Anastasion: "Was a transformation this extreme even possible? And
how would that play out in the real world?"

Filming the answers to that, partially due to inevitable funding
difficulties, took the team a very long five years. Yet, says Strauss,
as it turned out, "it's a far better film because of the struggles we
had."

For one thing, during that period Blahyi agreed to admit his crimes
before Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, something few
warlords agreed to do, and the consequences of that testimony were
ones even he did not anticipate. That five-year period also allowed
the filmmakers to interview many of the people critical to Blahyi's
story.

These include preacher John Kun Kun, the man who started the general's
conversion process by boldly coming to talk to him and insisting that
God had a plan for him. Then there's a former child soldier, nicknamed
Senegalese, Blahyi's second in command, who was the victim of one of
his horrible acts of violence, an act directly related to Kun's visit.

The filmmakers met Senegalese because Blahyi regularly seeks out
people he has savagely wronged and asks for their forgiveness. "He
genuinely puts himself out there, he doesn't have to put himself in
these uncomfortable situations," says Strauss. "He literally runs into
victims or families of victims on a daily basis."

One of the most unnerving things the filmmakers discovered is that for
Blahyi there was always a spiritual dimension to his actions, even
when he was killing. Having served as a priest for the Krahn people,
he felt he was fighting for this tribe and, says Strauss, "he was a
deeply spiritually motivated person, and the persona of General Butt
Naked came out of a traditional belief system. He says his god told
him nudity would make him invincible to bullets, and when people saw
him they felt it must be true, that he was protected. He went to bed
at night and thought he was a hero."

This transformational story has so many aspects to it that the
filmmakers have intentionally not tied it up into a neat package.
"This is such a story that can easily veer into black and white, an
easy story to make overwrought," says Anastasion. "We didn't want to
fall into the trap of taking a stance on Joshua. We wanted viewers to
decide, to let the audience absorb the material. There needs to be an
appetite for complexity."
 

Ankhur

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Oct 4, 2009
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Documentary: Brutal Liberrian warlord becomes Christian preacher
Posted by: Horace Coleman
Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:08 am (PST)

theenvelope.latimes.com/la-et-sundance-butt-naked-20110122,0,5464635.story

latimes.com

Sundance Film Festival: 'The Redemption of General Butt Naked'

The documentary follows a brutal Liberian warlord who becomes a
Christian preacher and asks forgiveness for his crimes.

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

January 22, 2011

Reporting from Park City, Utah — If character truly is destiny, what
does that say about the mind-warping trajectory of the charismatic
evangelical Christian preacher Joshua Milton Blahyi, once known as
General Butt Naked?

That name may sound silly, but it's not a joke to those who survived
Liberia's 14-year civil war — or the tens of thousands who didn't.

A stark naked warlord in that struggle, a man who has admitted to
killing thousands of people and doing unspeakable things during the
1989-2003 conflict, Blahyi is still so well-known in the country that,
says filmmaker Daniele Anastasion, "when he walks through the airport
in Monrovia you can hear it around you, 'that's Butt Naked.' People
still fear him."

Co-directed by Eric Strauss and Anastasion, "The Redemption of General
Butt Naked," which premieres Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival
and does not yet have distribution, is a compelling portrait of an
extraordinarily complex personal odyssey, a film that explores both
the power and the limitations of faith and forgiveness. "There are so
many larger-than-life aspects here," says Strauss, "that if anyone had
written it as a feature script it would have sounded absurd."

Blahyi's story is so unusual, and his personality so strong and
vibrant, that the filmmakers found — as Anastasion put it — "it was
challenging to keep track of yourself, of your own reactions. He can
be warm but then you remember what he did in the past. In the course
of a day our opinion of him would change, we tried to keep track of
each other, of where we each were. It messes with your head a little
bit."

The filmmakers, both in their 30s, began working together at the
National Geographic channel. The project started when Strauss came
across a mention of Blahyi in a book called "The World's Most
Dangerous Places."

"It was just a tiny blurb about a notorious warlord who had killed
thousands and was now walking the streets preaching truth and
reconciliation," he remembers. "I wondered, 'Could someone like this
really exist?'"

Adds Anastasion: "Was a transformation this extreme even possible? And
how would that play out in the real world?"

Filming the answers to that, partially due to inevitable funding
difficulties, took the team a very long five years. Yet, says Strauss,
as it turned out, "it's a far better film because of the struggles we
had."

For one thing, during that period Blahyi agreed to admit his crimes
before Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, something few
warlords agreed to do, and the consequences of that testimony were
ones even he did not anticipate. That five-year period also allowed
the filmmakers to interview many of the people critical to Blahyi's
story.

These include preacher John Kun Kun, the man who started the general's
conversion process by boldly coming to talk to him and insisting that
God had a plan for him. Then there's a former child soldier, nicknamed
Senegalese, Blahyi's second in command, who was the victim of one of
his horrible acts of violence, an act directly related to Kun's visit.

The filmmakers met Senegalese because Blahyi regularly seeks out
people he has savagely wronged and asks for their forgiveness. "He
genuinely puts himself out there, he doesn't have to put himself in
these uncomfortable situations," says Strauss. "He literally runs into
victims or families of victims on a daily basis."

One of the most unnerving things the filmmakers discovered is that for
Blahyi there was always a spiritual dimension to his actions, even
when he was killing. Having served as a priest for the Krahn people,
he felt he was fighting for this tribe and, says Strauss, "he was a
deeply spiritually motivated person, and the persona of General Butt
Naked came out of a traditional belief system. He says his god told
him nudity would make him invincible to bullets, and when people saw
him they felt it must be true, that he was protected. He went to bed
at night and thought he was a hero."

This transformational story has so many aspects to it that the
filmmakers have intentionally not tied it up into a neat package.
"This is such a story that can easily veer into black and white, an
easy story to make overwrought," says Anastasion. "We didn't want to
fall into the trap of taking a stance on Joshua. We wanted viewers to
decide, to let the audience absorb the material. There needs to be an
appetite for complexity."
Peter once was a warlord for Rome

How many of Kublai Khans men became Tibetan monks?
 

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