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Film Selection: Child Soldiers

It is estimated that since 1993 millions of children lost their lives due to armed conflicts. They are often forcefully abducted from their homes, used as fodder on the front lines, as testers of minefields, as suicide bombers or as sexual slaves. Schools and hospitals, where children should be able to find solace and care, are often targeted in unlawful armed attacks.

A 15-year-old former girl soldier says: “I would like you to give a message. Please do your best to tell the world what is happening to us, the children. So that other children don't have to pass through this violence." Children like her are forcefully abducted, receive 35 days of military training and are sent to fight in the fiercest wars of our days.


Kony 2012

Director: Jason Russell, Invisible Children

Year: 2012

Country: USA

Length: 30 min

The KONY 2012 campaign started as an experiment. Could an online video make an obscure war criminal famous? And if he was famous, would the world work together to stop him? Or would it let him remain at large?

The experiment yielded the fastest growing viral video of all time. 3.7 million people pledged their support for efforts to arrest Joseph Kony.

Thousands rallied in Washington, DC and the KONY 2012 Global Summit on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) brought together seven leaders from international institutions and the affected region to talk about what they are doing to stop Joseph Kony and his rebel army.

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Children of War

Director: Bryan Single

Year: 2009

Country: USA

Length: 75 min

Filmed in the war-zone of northern Uganda over a period of three years by Director Bryan Single. 'Children of War' is a unique and incandescent documentary which follows a group of former child soldiers as they escape the battlefield, enter a rehabilitation center, and undergo a process of trauma therapy and emotional healing. Having been abducted from their homes and schools and forced to become fighters by the Lord's Resistance Army - a quasi-religious militia led by self-proclaimed prophet and war criminal Joseph Kony - the children struggle to confront and break through years of captivity, extreme religious indoctrination, and participation in war crimes with the help of a team of trauma counselors. As these fearless allies guide the children forward into new lives, Children of War illuminates a powerful and cathartic story of forgiveness and hope in the aftermath of war.

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War Child

Director: Christian Karim Chrobog

Year: 2008

Country: USA

Length: 94 min

Left home at the age of seven/one year later I’m carryin’ an Ak-47.” For hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier in Sudan’s brutal civil war, these lyrics are hardly empty posturing. They are the bitter reality of a young man who was “forced to sin” but determined to “never give up and never give in.” Today, wounded but still hopeful, Emmanuel Jal fights a new battle: bringing peace to his beloved Sudan and building schools in Africa. This time, his weapon is a microphone. See why audiences from New York to Berlin to London rave about the award-winning film, War Child, and have embraced the hip-hop artist with a terrifying past and a gentle soul. Interspersing original interviews, live concerts, and rare footage of Emmanuel Jal as a seven year-old boy, War Child will make viewers cry, laugh, dance, and celebrate the power of hope.

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Kassim the Dream

Director: Kief Davidson

Year: 2008

Country: USA

Length: 87 min

Plenty of professional sports stars have had to overcome adversity to achieve success, but few have had to struggle against the harrowing circumstances that met Kassim "the Dream" Ouma in his childhood. Born in Uganda in 1978, Ouma was one of 13 siblings; he was born into poverty and sent to a boarding school where, at the age of six, he was abducted along with most of his classmates by rebel soldiers under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni. The soldiers taught Ouma how to kill, maim and torture others, and he was forced to inflict punishment under the threat of death. Museveni became Uganda's president in 1986 and Ouma was drafted into the military as soon as he came of age; while a soldier, he began taking boxing lessons. Ouma had a great natural talent as a fighter, and became a star on the army's boxing team. But Ouma dreamed of a better life, and when Uganda's national team traveled to compete in America, he defected, seeking asylum in the United States. Despite having no money and not speaking a word of English, 18-year-old Ouma was welcomed by Africans in the American boxing community, and manager Tom Moran took Ouma under his wing and into his home. Ouma went on to become Light Middleweight champion and a top middleweight contender in a professional career that saw him win 24 of his 29 fights. Filmmaker Kief Davidson tells Ouma's remarkable true story in the documentary Kassim the Dream, in which Ouma talks about his ravaged childhood, coming to America, his return to Uganda, and how boxing became his therapy as he deals with the demons of his past.

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Johnny Mad Dog

Director: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Year: 2008

Country: France, Belgium, Liberia

Length: 98 min

A vicious child soldier armed with weapons of death and willing to use them at the slightest provocation serves as the focal point for this drama highlighting the need for greater humanity in a country ravaged by absurd wars. Johnny is a fifteen year old soldier with a small commando unit, and together this team robs, pillages, and kills everyone and everything in their path. Laokolé is a sixteen year old girl who spirits her disabled father around on a ramshackle wheelbarrow and looks after her eight year old brother Fofo while dreaming of ways to leave the city and build a better future. As Johnny advances and Laokolé falls back, miniature warlords leading diminutive armies kill each other over such trivialities as misplaced words or television sets. What will it take to ensure that no more childhoods are cut tragically short?

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Invisible Children - Rough Cut

Director: Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole

Year: 2006

Country: USA

Length: 55 min

Without having seen the suffering in Northern Uganda, I'm appalled frankly, it's a moral outrage to see thousands of children that have been abducted, that are maltreated, that go through the most horrendous torture by the rebel movement and also the same groups now being neglected, to some extent, by the whole international community. I can not find any other part of the world having an emergency at the scale of Uganda with so little international attention. What started out as a film-making adventure in Africa, transformed into much more, when the three young American’s (Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole) original travels took a divine turn, and they found themselves stranded in Northern Uganda. They discovered children being kidnapped nightly from their homes and subsequently forced to become fight as child soldiers. This film is dedicated to exposing this tragic, and amazingly untold story.

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Lost Children

Director: Ali Samadi Ahadi and Oliver Stoltz

Year: 2005

Country: Germany

Length: 103 min

For over 18 years the civil war in north Uganda started - nearly unnoticed by the world's public. The rebels of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) are waging a bloody guerilla war, abducting children and forcing them to kill as soldiers among their own people. "Lost Children" is a documentary film of four children aged between 8 and 14, who successfully escaped. They return home to be branded as killers. Will they ever forget, will they be forgiven ? Can you be a child again after you have been a soldier? Ali Samadi Ahadi and Oliver Stoltz visited the war zone in north Uganda for four times, to observe children who have escaped the bush camps of the rebels to see what happens when they try to reintegrate into their clans again. Because both directors were confronted with war during their childhoods, they have purposely chosen the children`s perspective to tell. Before finishing the filmshooting, the filmmakers founded the project, in order to ease some of the hardship for the people.

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Lost Boys of Sudan

Director: Megan Mylan and John Shenk

Year: 2003

Country: USA

Length: 87 min

Lost Boys of Sudan is an Emmy-nominated feature-length documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa's cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia.

Lost Boys of Sudan directed by Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk, won an Independent Spirit Award and screened theatrically in 70 cities across the U.S. to strong audience and critical praise. The film was broadcast nationally on the PBS series POV in the fall of 2004 and earned two national Emmy nominations.

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