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Liberian documentary making waves in America
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gerald Barclay with kids at the Liberian refugee camp in Ghana
By Hassan Kiawu,
BBC, Atlanta - USA


A new documentary on Liberia's war and efforts at restoring peace to the country is now being screened across America.

Since its first screening in Rhode Island last month, the 90 minute documentary entitled “The Love of Liberty” has been causing a real stir in America and many Liberians as well as other nationalities have developed an appetite for it.

Emotions have been running high among Liberians residing in America who have been turning out in their numbers to see the grim reality of the carnage and destruction which engulfed the West African nation in the 1990's.

The documentary tells the personal story of the filmmaker, Gerald Barclay whose family was forced to flee Liberia after the Coup D’etat in 1980, which brought the then Master Sergeant Samuel Doe to power.

After 24 years in exile in America, where he studied film making and worked for some of America’s top hip hop stars, Barclay lost all desire to return home after seeing the destruction in Liberia.

But that was all to change.

Going back

 

The 36-year-old film maker went to Ghana in 2001 to produce a documentary on the influence of hip-hop on the African culture.

General but naked
The notorious General Butt Naked is now a preacher

While there, he visited the Liberian refugee camp in Bumdumbura, central Ghana to locate a long lost relative.

During the search, he came face-to-face with survivors of the war and heard the horrible stories they had to tell.

One notable encounter was with a notorious killer-turned preacher, Joshua Blaye former called "General Butt Naked".

He was given the name by his followers because at the height of the fighting in Monrovia in 1996, he would never wear clothes while he fought.

Their encounter created sufficient impact on the film maker who then embarked on a four-year journey to collect material on the horrors and effects of the war.

That eventually led him to visit Liberia, reuniting him with the past he had tried so hard to forget.

General butt naked

 

The film contains footage of some of the most gruesome murders of people and the destruction that was carried out during the war but without doubt the encounter with General Butt Naked is the highpoint of the documentary.

In the film, the born-again preacher declares “this is General Butt Naked but by the grace of God, I am now evangelist Joshua Blaye”.

This is General Butt Naked but by the grace of God, I am now evangelist Joshua Blaye
General Butt Naked
 

He admitted to killing and ordering the killings of over 10,000 people and eating the hearts of some of his victims to solidify his charms and to fulfill the rules of his rituals.

He admitted that while growing up, he practiced witchcraft and was deeply involved in ritualistic killings.

He said parts extracted from his victims were then sold on demand to traditional voodoo and witch doctors, who would in turn produce the necessary charms that were sold out to people who were seeking higher and public offices in Liberia.

But something led him to abandon the killings and cannibalism for the Bible.
“One day a voice told me to quit because I was a slave to my charms, he said in the film. After I heard that voice, gunshots which never came close to my body now began to hit me”.

He said although he sustained no injures from them, it became increasingly clear that his powers had dwindled.

Little hope

 

The documentary also features illiterate elderly Liberian women undergoing adult education classes in Ghana to prepare them for their trip to America under the US government’s Visa Lottery program.

But in Liberia itself, life looked difficult as people roam the streets to fetch water and food.

kids at Buduburam camp
The smiles of the children hide the misery of living in Liberia

The film shows the difficulty facing people as they lack basic social ammenities such as electricity and water and the non payment of civil servants salaries has reduced many who had the means to mere beggars.

The film captures the final moments towards the cessation of fighting in Liberia and reaction from Liberia and America, the burial of people in mass graves, rallies by Liberians residing in America calling for US intervention, the departure of Charles Taylor, the arrival of UN peacekeepers and the interim government.

The focus of the documentary as it draws to a close returns to the film maker himself as he successfully fulfills the wishes of his late grand mother whose return to Liberia was made impossible by the turmoil that ravaged that country.
 
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