USA, 2010, 84 min
Can a warlord become an advocate for peace? Can a nation ever heal the open wounds of a brutal civil war? The Redemption of General Butt Naked is the account of a man and a country attempting to move forward in the wake of unspeakable violence, both on a quest for revolutionary transformation. In 1996, General Butt Naked metamorphosed from ringleader of the ruthless Butt Naked Battalion—responsible for the deaths of over 20,000 people in Liberia’s 14-year civil war—to Joshua Milton Blahyi, an evangelist who claims to be bringing peace and forgiveness to his ravaged country. Or so the story goes. This riveting documentary charts the rise and fall of the Butt Naked Battalion and the general’s horrific tactics. We see the fearsome armies he led—literally naked except for weapons draped on their backs—slaughtering fellow countrymen in Monrovia’s streets; we see the child soldiers he recruited, hefting machine guns larger than their emaciated torsos. Yet years later, with infectious charisma, Blahyi preaches the Gospel to the family members of his victims. He begs forgiveness and testifies before Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “I killed your brother out of madness,” he says. “Now, let me be your brother. Count on me when you need brotherly counsel.” Are we witnessing a changed man? Filmmakers Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion neither romanticize nor prosecute Blahyi on his alleged journey of redemption. Instead, they shrewdly task the audience with a set of harrowing questions about justice, violence, mortality and faith.
GGA Documentary Feature Contender.