Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Pray the Devil Back to Heaven poster
"Does a bullet know Christian from Muslim?"
- tagline from Pray the Devil Back to Hell, and a paraphrase from one of the interviewees
I had the opportunity this afternoon to see the excellent documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which one best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. It features several Liberian women, who lead the effort to capture the attention of Charles Taylor and the warlords, who had been terrorizing Liberia. These women banded together and eventually forced Taylor and the warlords to both to dialogue with them and to engage in peace talks with each other. They even played out a real-life version of Lysistrata along the way.

It's a tragic and often harrowing story that also proves extraordinarily inspiring in the end. Watching the film, I wondered what you'd have to do to nominate these incredible women for a Nobel Peace Prize. Because these women certainly went to greater lengths to forge peace than some who have won that prize.

The documentary also focuses on how Christian and Muslim women alike united in their cause, realizing that their common plight as humans had grown far more important to them than their religious differences. So too women from traditionally unfriendly ethnic factions joined together, aligning themselves against the war.

The film-makers have been showing the documentary around the world in similar places that are being torn apart by various factions. And already women are uniting in similar fashion, motivated and empowered by what they've seen.

Now, by the way, with Charles Taylor is on trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity, and Liberia's current President is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa's history.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell just won Tribeca's World Documentary Competition. Last year Taxi to the Dark Side won that award and went on to win the Academy Award for best documentary. One can only hope for similar success for this year's winner.

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