FF95 - Beasts of no Nation

Intro by Ben Harrison

Friendly Fire deals with a lot of tough subjects, but we just wanted to give a special heads-up that today's film, which centers around a child soldier in West Africa, features depictions of sexual violence and child abuse. Your hosts are going to talk about those things in this episode and we just wanted folks to be aware of that going in. Skip to next week's episode if that is not a subject you want to hear a podcast about!

How do you know there is someone who has been to Africa at your party? I will tell you! I am the firemen of going to Africa! I have been to Kenya a couple of times, once for work and once for a wedding. I got mugged on the streets of Addis Ababa for my iPhone, which was the second time I have been mugged for an iPhone, the first time was in Brooklyn. I have been to northern Nigeria and Senegal in recent years. They are great! My passport is running out of blank pages. I love Africa! I think everybody should go.

But in all the places I have been, all the people I have met and history I have read, nothing prepared me for what I saw in watching Beasts Of No Nation. It is a brutal and unflinching, but also utterly beautiful picture of a very specifically unnamed African nation at war. That is because Cary Joji Fukunaga directs the film. He is an incredibly talented storyteller, both narratively and visually. His work here is astounding! In this film Fukunaga also acts as his own cinematographer for the screenplay he also wrote.

If that sounds like a heavy amount of weight to carry it is, but it pales in comparison to what an audience is asked to endure as we witness the life of Agu. He is our main character, a boy forced to join a group of soldiers rebelling against what remains of their fallen government, led by a commander played by the great Idris Elba who is a toxic combination of utterly charismatic as the most effective cult leaders are and sadistically ambitious. Along the way, Abraham Attah's performance as Agu is riveting and tragic. He is not merely a child actor the way his character is not merely a child. His work is revelatory!

We have seen some films for Friendly Fire that unflinchingly weighed into the very worst aspects of humanity during war time, and Beasts of no Nation is one of those films, but what makes this film special is that its depictions of its many atrocities and those who commit them trigger both revulsion and awe. It is not violence for violence's sake. These explicit details are depicted in service of a powerful message. Maybe we are all a bit closer to being beasts than we like to admit. I just want to be happy in this life! On today's Friendly Fire: Beasts Of No Nation.

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