The Redemption of General Butt Naked
Documentary Feature
$10 online or at the door.
Saturday Jun 25, 2011
8:00PMDoors Open
8:30PMLive Music
9:00PMFilm Begins
11:30PMAfter Party at Fontana's (105 Eldridge St., btwn Broome St. and Grand St.)
IN THE CASE OF RAIN THE EVENT WILL BE HELD INDOORS AT THE SAME LOCATION. RESTRICTIONS: NO REFUNDS. SEATING IS FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED. PHYSICAL SEATS ARE LIMITED. THIS MEANS YOU MAY NOT GET A CHAIR. YOU ARE WELCOME TO BRING A BLANKET AND SIT PICNIC-STYLE, BUT NO ALCOHOL IS PERMITTED.

VENUE
The roof of New Design High School (formerly Open Road)
(above New Design High School)
Lower East Side
350 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
F, J, M, Z to Delancey Street-Essex Street; B, D, Q to Grand Street

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This Show Presented in Partnership With
Vulture
New York Magazine
IFC

Joshua Milton Blahyi is a Liberian warlord turned evangelical minister in this stirring verité documentary about the nature of justice and absolution.


The man known as General Butt Naked murdered thousands during Liberia’s horrific 14-year civil war. Today he has reinvented himself as evangelist Joshua Milton Blahyi. In a riveting cinema vérité journey that unfolds over the course of five years, filmmakers Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion follow his unrelenting crusade to save his own soul by spreading the gospel to the people he once terrorized.


THE FILMS

The Redemption of General Butt Naked (Daniele Anastasion & Eric Strauss | Liberia | 90 min.)
Guilt or innocence are relatively easy to proclaim. Remorse, forgiveness, redemption: these concepts are more difficult to determine. In a shocking testimony before the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Blahyi confesses to having led his conscripted army (including many cutlass-wielding children) to commit an improbable 20,000 murders. He is the first warlord to appear before the Committee and has come before them voluntarily. His current persona straddles braggadocio and remorse: he seems proud of his penitence. It's an unsettling stance.

He now makes a living preaching about his salvation. There is a miraculous parable that ripples throughout the film: against Blahyi's will, a priest appeared in his room; for allowing the man in, Blahyi crippled his bodyguard—but the seed of his epiphany was planted. Today, his sermons are terrifically dynamic, and filmed here with a swirling intensity that immerses the viewer in the sweat-filled, single-room chapels. But many former victims doubt the sincerity or veracity of his conversion: "Joining a particular religion does not replace justice." Yet in a nation where a man who was caught on camera torturing the former president is now a senator who denies any past wrong-doing, there is a legitimate need for public contrition.

We witness the stunning drama of Blahyi's personal apologies to his victims. To a man who's family he slaughtered, Blahyi offers to play the brother. With a woman whose husband he murdered and daughter he blinded, Blahyi makes an uncomfortable example of their forgiveness in public at a church. Blahyi has begun a shelter, with food, beds and bibles, for victims and former soldiers, now outcast, but still troublingly reliant solely on him. And with the former conscripted child soldier whom Blahyi's crippled—one can only imagine the nightmare visions that occur to these people when Blahyi reappears in their lives—Blahyi once again becomes a figure to revere.

We may question Blahyi's contrition, and doubt the depth of his victim's forgiveness, but when he looks into the eye of someone he hurt, when they weep in his arms, we know that hope may be intangible, it may not improve these shattered lives, but for each, there appears no other recourse; why not try forgiveness? In the end we may not feel that Blahyi has found genuine redemption, but this powerful and complex film forces us to question the very nature of the concept.

generalbuttnakedmovie.com

- Mark Elijah Rosenberg

MUSIC

Janka Nabay
“There was also an African apparition: Janka Nabay from Sierra Leone, wearing a straw skirt and singing and dancing to recorded tracks of what he said was a 500-year-old tradition called bubu music. The tracks were modern, and the beat, fast and skeletal and driven by bell taps, was unstoppable, demanding wider dissemination.” -NY Times

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.


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