Beasts of No Nation is a film about the experiences of Agu, a young West African boy recruited into a rebel militia after his family is murdered or disappears. The name of the country is never disclosed, thus the name of the film. The actor Idris Elba, portraying the commandant, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award at this year’s Golden Globes. I watched the film streaming on Netflix, so it is easy to find right now. This drama is not rated, although I would suspect it would be an R rating if it was, due to the violence.
Some may ask why I’d watch a movie sure to be violent and depressing. This is Africa, a place on the planet I have never visited. Africa is the Dark Continent, not called that due to the color of its people’s skin, but because it is a hard continent to live on; disease, extreme conditions, and dangers abound whether in the desert, jungle or oceanside. I like to be reminded that there are other people on the planet living very different lives from that of privileged Americans. It could be another planet for all we are aware of what goes on there.
The town portrayed is in a jungle, resources are unequally distributed, poverty is endemic, and yet the people have families, love fiercely, and just want to be able to enjoy their lives like we all do. Care for their babies, get the pretty girl in school to fall in love with you, learn and grow, and most importantly, enjoy life on planet earth.
But when there is civil unrest, and warring parties with machine guns try to get their way through force, all those desires and needs are left unfulfilled.
It was a captivating tale, and yes, there was violence. The part of me interested in human behavior found it fascinating how the young scared recruits become hardened soldiers, capable of committing heinous crimes against their fellow humans. Brainwashing at its most effective, preying on the vulnerability of the young.
I was spellbound throughout the whole film, which led to a surprising ending. I got to thinking about where the weapons come from. Where are the factories for the production of guns and ammunition, and who by working there contributes to the deaths of fellow human beings and the destruction of earth? With gun issues at a breaking point in America, what about broadening the discussion to the armed nature of this entire planet?
Every spirit that comes to earth wants the same things, to experience this world, and to be safe and loved. Breaking the cycle of the willingness to use violence as a means to settle disputes is a concept whose time has come and is long overdue. Violence is not a solution to a multi-faceted problem that encompasses lack of education for women leading to a higher birth rate, subsequent poverty, and despair. War does not bring peace for the children forced to fight or for the nations involved.