Film

Timely Documentary, 'Pray the Devil Back to Hell' at Maysles Cinema, 11/16

Pray The Devil Back to Hell traces the Women’s Peace Initiative’s evolution, recounted by founders and active members. These include Leymah Gbowee, who helps to bring together women of diverse backgrounds and faiths, whose stories are conveyed here in thoughtful interviews and sometimes harrowing footage drawn from the many years of Liberia’s civil war. In 1989, Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) assassinated Liberian dictator Samuel Doe and took over the government; warring factions varied in name and number. By 2002, the sides were using similar tactics—a group of warlords who called themselves LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) and Taylor’s private army (ironically titled “The Anti-Terrorist Unit”) were using similar tactics to compel citizens into compliance: kidnapping children to drug and deploy as soldiers, looting villages, raping women, and marauding over the countryside, as lawless and brutal as their victims were quietly resilient. Gbowee says her inspiration came in a dream: “Someone was actually telling me to get the women of the church together,” she remembers, “to pray for peace.” When she did, more and more women began coming to meetings, including Asatu Bah Kenneth, Assistant Director of the Liberian National Police. Thrilled by the women’s energy and dedication, she spoke passionately, and identified herself upfront as “the only Muslim in the church,” and was immediately accepted (“They said ‘Oh hallelujah,’ they were so happy that I was there”). This would be a coalition of women, all with one goal, peace.

Gini Reticker’s documentary is screening 16 November at Maysles Cinema, in collaboration with PBS' Women, War, and Peace series.

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