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FDL Movie Night Welcomes Karim Chrobog: War Child

War Child tells the story of Emmanuel Jal, a Southern Sudanese child soldier turned hip hop artist. Recruited in a refugee camp to serve as a soldier in the civil war, Jal’s disturbing, profoundly moving and ultimately uplifting tale takes him from the camp and the battlefields to the slums of Nairobi and onto the world’s stage as hip hop artist:

Left home at the age of seven/one year later I’m carryin’ an AK-47 

Directed by C. Karim Chrobog, the documentary combines contemporary and archival footage. The archival material features young Jal, who was sent to a refugee camp after the boat carrying him and 350 other children from Sudan to a school in Ethiopia collapsed. Only 50 children survived, and they walked on foot to a displaced person camp.  Jal, intelligent and charismatic even at an earlier age was the children’s spokesperson when the UN would inspect the camp or journalists came to visit.

When outsiders were gone, the "students" continued training as soldiers in the Sudanese people’s Liberation Army. 

But none of us were forced to fight

Says Jal, and the boys took up arms willingly having seen their villages ravaged.  Jal fought as soldier with guns and knives, and he recounts harrowing, horrifying tales of battles and of his escape from the camp with several others, a journey that resulted in starvation and death for his companions. Rescued by an aid worker, Emma McCune, Jal began a life of relative normalcy until fate cruelly intervened and he was banished into Nairobi’s slums. Through his charm and intelligence he was able to secure a place at a prestigious private school where his background as a "lost boy" was eventually uncovered.

Inspired by music, he began to tell his story in songs, and recorded a breakthrough record that brought him international attention, and made it possible for him to bring awareness to the plight of his fellow child solidiers, to reunite his sister and cousins in a safe house, and to sponsor other children in school.  Jal lives in London but returns frequently to his homeland, now post-war, and hopes to build two schools. Portions of proceeds from this film will go to that effort through the charity he established, Gua Africa, Gua meaning peace is Sudanese. Emmanuel is also spokesman for the Make Poverty History campaign, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and the Control Arms campaign.

Emanuel Jal’s life is a testament to the human spirit, to the redemptive power of music, and also to Jal’s faith which carried him through his ordeals. And War Child demonstrates with astounding clarity why the internal strife and poverty in Africa must be mended.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.