Part of CMJ Film Festival

The Norwood Club, tucked away in a brownstone on West 14th Street played host to the CMJ Film Festival screening of War Child, a documentary about tragedy and change in a land seemingly worlds away. Emmanuel Jal, musician and former child soldier, grew up in the harsh climate of Sudanese civil war. Around the age of 7, Jal was taken from his home. He joined thousands of young Southern Sudanese refugees on a journey to Ethiopia in pursuit of education, yet became a soldier. In his early adolescence, Jal was smuggled into the safety of Kenya by a British aid worker.

We see footage of Jal as a young child in Africa, and follow Jal on a return trip to Kenya and Sudan. Heavy visuals pervade the narrative; children armed with AK-47’s, ruminating vultures keeping vigil over skeletal cadavers strewn across the barren landscape. Such imagery provides for a strong contrast to Jal’s music, a way of telling his life story told through a blend of soul and hip-hop infused with African beats. The deep and many ways that Jal touches people are highlighted through the film’s footage of concerts, presentations he gives, and his political activism.

Above all, War Child lends insight into Jal’s important story, the sort of story that must be remembered if we hope to ever move towards peace. The film emphasizes the power of storytelling through music and the importance of education. War Child presents the viewer with the ultimate example of turning something truly horrible into something good, something progressive, a step toward change and healing.