Posted November 16, 2010 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

Silent Army


A harrowing look at the use of children as soldiers in East Africa
that pulls no punches in highlighting the reality of these defenceless
youngsters.

In many ways The Silent Army’s closest relation is Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond (2006). Admittedly it does not share the big bucks, big bangs and super stars of that film but it deals extensively with the use of children in East Africa as militia soldiers in the same manner. Shot on location in Uganda, although the country is never mentioned to avoid any accusations, The Silent Army is clearly a film that has drawn from many accounts of the treatment of young children in war torn Africa.

Eduard (Borsato), a Dutch chef in Africa, runs a restaurant with his wife. When she is tragically killed in a car accident their son Thomas (Schoneveld) turns to his friend Abu (Kintu),
a young boy whose parents work in the restaurant, for comfort. However,
a militia come to the village where Abu lives and abduct him into their
ranks. Desperate to make a difference, Eduard sets out to track down
and save Abu from the tragic life he now faces.

Although it is often painted with fairly broad strokes The Silent Army presents a very real and powerful message.
While it starts off by highlighting the differences in culture, it
smartly shows that in spite of these, as people, we are all the same and
worthy of one another’s respect. While Abu watches in awe as Thomas
plays war games on his computer, he and his father also laugh at the
pronunciation of a Dutch footballers name. Neither of these two events
are made to feel like judgements, merely observations.

Having established a comfortable ‘normal’ existence for Abu writer
director Jean van de Velde wastes little time in getting to the main
crux of the story. What follows is a double header as we trail Abu
through his traumatic experiences while also realising how hard it is
for Eduard to seek out the young boy. Of the two plots it is always Abu’s that is the most engaging.
It is never easy going as we watch him forced to kill his own father
before being brainwashed into believing his new life is for the best.
Each event seems ever more harrowing to witness and as such there are
times when you feel like less would have been more. However, Velde
cannot be accused of trying to milk the situations and finds a crucial
balance between showing us certain moments of violence but censoring
others.

Borsato, a renowned singer in his native Holland, struggles in the
lead role. However, Velde smartly cuts round much of it and as such he
is never wooden enough to distract. Borsato’s involvement came about
from his support of the charity War Child which is particularly relevant
given the subject matter. Thankfully it is the character of Abu who
takes centre stage. Played with natural innocence by first time actor
Andrew Kintu you never question that the men who abduct him are slowly
corrupting him.

The Silent Army spends much of its running time trying to ram the
point home when it would have achieved it in a more accomplished manner
by allowing it to unfold naturally. Nonetheless it is a film with a
message that needs to find an audience. Not so much Silent as shouting
from the rooftops, but sometimes it’s the only way to get people’s
attention.


Marcia Degia - Publisher

 
Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.