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The Redemption of General Butt Naked (MIFF Review)

The Redemption of General Butt Naked (MIFF Review)

Aug 5, 2011
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The Redemption of General Butt Naked
Genre: Documentary, Biography, Drama Runtime: 85 minutes Country: USA, Georgia, Liberia


Director:  Daniele Anastasion, Eric Strauss
The Redemption of General Butt Naked (MIFF Review), reviewed by Tom Clift on 2011-08-05T15:15:48+00:00 rating 1.5 out of5

Joshua Milton Blahyi a.k.a General Butt Naked: one of the most ruthless, sadistic warlords of the Liberian Civil War. His humourous moniker does little to offset the severity of his crimes – which included murder, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers – and neither does the documentary film that chronicles his return to Liberia as an evangelical Christian preacher trying to make amends. Exploitative and preachy, The Redemption of General Butt Naked is the story of an evil man who, despite his conversion, never attempts to pay penance for his crimes, told by a pair of opportunistic filmmakers who you can practically envision just off camera, unscrupulously pulling the strings.

It’s not that one doubts Joshua’s new found faith in Jesus, or even that he regrets his actions during the long and bloody war. But as several interviewees’ rightly points out, there is a vast difference between seeking God’s forgiveness and taking responsibility for your actions. Yes he apologises to the families of his victims, but framed in evangelical dogma, it never quite feels honest or right. Even more unsettling is watching Joshua feverishly preaching the gospel to a troop of impressionable followers – the same followers he once convinced to pick up guns and kill without mercy.

American directors Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion exploit the situation for all it’s worth. Many of the situations in the film feel set up and manipulated, and one gets the impression that many of Joshua’s victims only accept his apologies because there is a camera present. At one point in the film, a man Joshua crippled many years ago dies of tuberculosis, and one can imagining the filmmakers gleefully celebrating the additional drama it will bring their story. It’s at times like these that this film moves from vaguely troubling to truly unpleasant.

For all its talk of the healing power of Christ, there is very little good or righteous about this film. And rest assured, there is no redemption to be found here.  Not for General Butt Naked. Not for the filmmakers. Not for anybody.

Tom Clift is a web-based film journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Visit his website here: http://reviewsbytom.blogspot.com.

You can read all of Tom Clift’s coverage of MIFF 2011 here.

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