The Silent Army (Jean Van De Velde, 2008) Uganda/Africa

Reviewed by Candice Field. Viewed at the AFI Film Festival 2009.

/>The Silent Army, written and directed by Jean Van De Velde, paints an almost alarmingly realistic picture of the unceasing agony countless children in Uganada (and other parts of Africa), are forced to endure when victimized by malevolent rebel army forces. The film provides us with a more thorough understanding of what these young people experience when forced to leave the world they know behind, and join a rebel army. Furthermore, this inspirational film serves as a kind of informant for those who continue to suffer in silence. Director Jean Van De Velde, a native of Africa, accurately depicts the pain and suffering these children are subjected to on a daily basis. The film follows Edward (played by Marco Borsato), a fairly wealthy restaurant owner in Africa. Edward is left to raise his son Thomas on his own, after the death of his wife. Young Thomas is good friends with Abu, son of Mafillu, one of the female black staffers that works for Edward. In what is undoubtedly one of the most emotional scenes in the film, Abu along with a bevy of other young children living in the area, go missing;  after a sudden and violent raid on his village. Shortly after which Thomas goes searching for Abu against his father’s will, and proves he is truly devoted to his dear friend. In hopes of pleasing his son, Edward embarks on a dangerous mission through the jungle to find and rescue young Abu before it is too late. Jean Van De Velde added suspense to his heart wrenching film by skipping back and forth from Abu, fighting for his survival while undergoing harsh child soldier training in the rebel army of Obeke, to Edward trekking through the jungle in search of his son’s true friend. The director added some truly effective motifs to the film. For instance early on in the film, Abu’s father grants him with a wooden play stay station controller similar to the real one his friend Thomas has. The boys take turns playing with the two controllers proving friendship truly has no bounds.

The film will likely strike a very personal chord with each and every person that views it. Jean Van De Velde creates such a realistic world of corruption and chaos, it seems more similar to a glimpse (actual look into their world). The director was able to pull out electrifying performances from every single cast member; many of whom were new to acting.Van De Velde actually cast all of the roles in the film in a single day. The cinematography used throughout the film plays out beautifully on screen. A variety of different camera angles and movements draw the viewer into the screen. It becomes clear that Jean Van De Velde intended to send a message with the release of the film, and, in a sense, a cry for help. The director, a native of Africa, clearly studied the country and rebel armies extensively. Before long it becomes obvious that “The Silent Army” is a passion project for this dedicated, and infinitely talented director. There isn’t a moment throughout the entire film that the viewer isn’t left on edge, or jumping out of their seat in anticipation.

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