No sugarcoating it: Ezra is a difficult film to watch. It isn’t particularly graphic or gory, but its dramatization of children being kidnapped and forced into fighting–or, really, raping and pillaging–by rebel armies in Sierra Leone is extremely upsetting, and all the more terrifying for alluding to greater and more incomprehensible crimes occurring in reality. As directed by Nigerian filmmaker Newton I. Aduaka, Ezra is often messy and awkwardly told, but even its amateurishness lends a sort of raw power to its harrowing depiction of dehumanization, exploitation, senseless violence, and the post-conflict attempts at “Truth and Reconciliation” as promoted by the series of human rights hearings set up to make some sort of sense of the devastation of a decade-long civil war.
As with last year’s Bamako, Ezra sifts through the ruins of Africa’s recent, tumultuous history by way of a judicial process, even if, as Richard Grant’s American judge continually reminds the title character and the audience, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission trial he presides over is essentially a therapeutic and non-punitive one. Click here to read Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of Ezra.