The Silent Army (Jean van de Velde, 2008): Netherlands

Reviewed by Zi Huang. Viewed at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre at the AFI Film Festival, Hollywood.

 The Silent Army is a recutting international version of the 2008 Dutch movie Wit Licht directed by Jean van de Velde and based on a true story happened in Africa. It’s about how the kidnapped childlike children are trained to be soldiers who have no mercy to kill the innocent people. It’s a very special and shocked subject matter. Although I had knew this subject by watching preview of this film or a film similar long time ago, I was still curious about The Silent Army and have a high expectation to it. But perhaps it’s because the expectation was too high, the film was not too good as I imagined.

The story centers about an African boy named Abu who is the best friend of a white boy comes from Netherlands. The white boy’s father Eduard Zuiderwijk (Marco Borsato) is a cook and has his own restaurant in an unstable area of Africa. Abu’s mother is an employee in Eduard’s restaurant and also a friend of Eduard and his wife. Abu is an outgoing kid who lives in a tranquil small village and loves his family and friends so much, and especially his father is the most important people for him. However, Abu’s life has been changed since the armed rebels come to rob and kill in his village. Everything is changed. The village is destroyed, and Abu is forced to kill his father by himself to survive. He is kidnapped as a prisoner with other innocent kids by the rebels. The head of the rebels tries to train these children to be soldiers so that buildup a strong army. To save Abu, Eduard and his son Thomas set out a dangerous journey to find him out.

When I watched the film, I was shocked strongly by what the rebels did to the kids. It’s so cruel that they got some many kills from the innocent people, but it’s crueler that they forced the kids kill their parents and other fellow kids to survive. That’s how the rebels make the kids betray their soul and can never go back the normal life. It just makes the child soldiers feel extremely painful in mental whenever they look back what have done are sins. Therefore, keep killing can be the only way to make the kids num and forget the pain. The church killing scene in the film present the kids have become the devils and the ruthless killers completely in front of the God. It’s hard to believe that is a reality in Africa, but that is the truth.

I can’t agree the film is a fantastic great work due to its extreme heroism. I personally think the white father Eduard is too brave and undaunted to save Abu on his own. That makes the film a bit unreal and looks like Hollywood style although it may be a part of the real story. Anyway, the film is good enough to watch, and makes more people think and concern about the subject matter of child soldiers and African people’s life.

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