The NFB funded LIBERIA: THE SECRET WAR premiered to a sold out crowd at the international Vues D’Afriques film festival, where it took the Prix Telequebec, screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the NFB, and has been used to teach post-colonial studies at the university level. It was my first documentary project.

Liberia, 1989. Chaos spreads through the jungle like a virus. 250 000 dead. Millions more displaced. “The Worst Place in the World,” is ignored – seen as a savage, primitive spirit that has nothing to do with us.

April the 6th, 1996. War bursts out of the jungle into sunny Monrovia, capital Liberia – Africa’s first republic. Corpses crowd the streets. Ghost warriors with juju totems fight and dance. CNN, ABC, BBC, Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly decry this new “African Barbarism,” paying big money images of these colourful yet sinister looking “JuJu warriors.”

Fresh out of McGill philosophy, I teamed up with childhood friends and fellow philosophy students Alexandre Trudeau and Malcolm Hearn, and headed to Liberia – where we discovered that this so-called “African Barbarism” is caused more by colonialism and the legacy of slavery than juju magic. On the contrary, juju is what allows Liberians to commune with the raw forces of global capitalism on their own terms – finding juju just as much in a pair of Nike sneakers, a Hong-Kong action movie or a Tupac beat as in their tribal rituals, which have long since been mixed in with globalization anyhow.

The result of six months embedded in the so-called “heart of darkness,” LIBERIA : THE SECRET WAR invents a hybrid form that dissolves the barrier between juju warrior and Western viewer. It’s a film only the young and foolish would dare make. Charles Taylor. Jack the Rebel. General Diamond. Solo the Kid. They don’t preach, but their tale is a cautionary one. Anarchy, chaos. It’s comforting to think these are African afflictions, but the Liberia crisis might telescope our future in a world growing ever more desperate. The jungle’s chaos sleeps in every heart. It’s beauty and magic could be our salvation.

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Booker Sim
Booker Sim
Transmedia storyteller and integrated producer.

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