My rundown of the 2011 Sundance US Documentary Competition continues with Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion’s THE REDEMPTION OF GENERAL BUTT NAKED, a portrait of a born again evangelist who was formerly the greatest mass murderer during Liberia’s brutal civil war.

Sundance Program Description:

Joshua Milton Blahyi, aka General Butt Naked, murdered thousands during Liberia’s horrific 14-year civil war. Today this once-brutal warlord has renounced his sadistic past and reinvented himself as evangelist Joshua Milton Blahyi. In a riveting cinema vérité journey that unfolds over the course of five years, filmmakers Daniele Anastasion and Eric Strauss follow Blahyi’s unrelenting crusade to redeem his life. Facing those he once terrorized, preaching where he once murdered, Blahyi is on a quest to save his soul.

Can a man really change? Should we be judged by what we have done, or by who we are now? Whatever you make of him—liar or madman, charlatan or genuine repentant— General Butt Naked is certainly a mesmerizing character. Challenging our preconceived notions of evil, justice, and faith, this shocking story of one man’s remarkable journey will resonate with anyone who has ever questioned his or her capacity to forgive.

Some Background:
Blahyi gained his unusual nickname as the leader of the Butt Naked Brigade, a group of mercenaries during the Liberian Civil War who went into battle naked to intimidate their opponents and to flaunt their magical powers, which they believed made them impervious to harm.

Directors Anastasion and Strauss have both been involved in the production of television documentaries for National Geographic and elsewhere – Anastasion has produced TV films on numerous topics, including the KKK and black market organs, while Strauss’ diverse TV work includes series on prison life and gangs.

Why You Should Watch:
Anastasion and Strauss expertly achieve a very difficult feat – sensitively presenting their subject in all of his complexity, but while still fully acknowledging and addressing head on the atrocities he committed in the past. The intimacy they capture, especially as he is confronted by those he victimized, is powerful and provocative.

Screening Info:
For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph above. The film also has a website and Facebook page to keep people updated on future plans.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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