Pray The Devil Back To Hell

Pray The Devil Back To Hell


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

In 1847, the Republic of Liberia was founded by slaves freed from the US. Fast-forward almost a century and a half later and the country was tearing itself apart with a civil war, which by 2002 had left 200,000 dead and one in three people misplaced. At the heart of the bloodshed stood dictator Charles “I am war itself” Taylor and the rebels desperate to oust him whatever the cost.

Gini Reticker’s documentary quickly sets the scene showing, through archive footage, how violence of this sort feeds upon itself, until everyone is sucked up in its path, with children as young as nine dragged into the fight. As one of the women who would come to play a key role in finding a solution through peaceful means puts it, all the various brokers were vying for “power, money, ethnicity, greed”.

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This sounds like a million conflicts which have gone before it, but for once, the solution came, not through the use of guns – “can a bullet choose?” asks one – but through the solidarity of a group of women who simply decided to say ‘no’ as loudly and as peacefully as they could.

Christian social worker Leymah Gbowee decided to muster up the women of her church to “pray for peace” and, in doing so, inspired Asatu Bah Kenneth – a Muslim police officer – to orchestrate a similar event among the faithful she knew. What emerged was a solidarity movement comprising women of both faiths. Espousing peace, their tactics initially involved wearing white T-shirts and holding sit-in protests to persuade Taylor to join peace talks. Constantly thinking on their feet, they brought every form of peaceful pressure to bear, lobbying church leaders, faction heads and even threatening a ‘sex strike’ in order to make the testosterone-fuelled warmongers hear what they had to say.

Despite being filled with heartbreaking stories about the horror of the civil war, this is not a depressing documentary. Although filling the watcher with the same sort of outrage that inspired the women to stand up and be counted, this is, at heart, a testimony to the power of solidarity and sisterhood through a single purpose. Although not breaking any new ground in the way it is constructed, the talking head testimony is powerful, the archival images shocking and the end result holds the same sort of lingering power, you suspect these brave women’s actions have had in their country.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2009
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The story of the Liberian women who came together to bring peace to their country.

Director: Gini Reticker

Year: 2008

Runtime: 72 minutes

Country: US

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