Ezra

"Good"

Ezra Review


Though the horrors of the diamond trade and government indiscretions in Sierra Leone are by no means news, Newton I. Aduaka's Ezra finds a grassroots way of exploring this mess of a situation, even if his means impede on his end result's delivery. Aduaka's film borders on being something immensely powerful, and then, as if shy or ashamed of its promise, flips its wig and falls back on convention.

It's 1992 in Sierra Leone, only months after a military coup instated the National Provisional Ruling Council, a group of renegade military officers, as the ruling body. At a small school in Leone, a boy named Ezra, along with a dozen other children, watch as a group of guerillas kill one of their teachers while kidnapping them. The weaker children are shot while the rest become soldiers in the People's Revolutionary Front, a radical militia group looking for freedom from the injustices of the NPRC.

Seven years later, Ezra (Mamoudu Turay) has been appointed as a leader in the PRF and conducts a raid on a small village. Houses are burned, women and children murdered, and, in one hut, Ezra's parents are killed, unknowingly, under the command of Ezra. In the hills beyond the village, while Ezra burns his one-time home to the ground, his sister Onitcha (Mariame N'Diaye) has her tongue cut off by one of Ezra soldiers. It is that incident that brings about the investigative trial, the spine on which Ezra's flashbacks build on to create a full portrait not only of Ezra, but of guerilla life in the West African nation.

Aduaka's direction has a rough-and-tumble nature to it that gives one the sense that the footage was culled from news segments and propaganda videos. The rough-hewned aesthetic sells a film that is otherwise spotty and leans a bit hard on a group of mostly inexperienced actors, with the exception of Richard Gant, who plays the head of the counsel leading the investigation into Ezra's actions. When Aduaka pushes hard on the schematics and sloganeering of African politics, the film quakes and feels inauthentic, bordering on trite. In its precious few natural moments (a pre-raid dance, trips through the jungle, the initial boot camp for child soldiers), the lines become blurred and the film flirts with Dardenne-like singular action.

The only fully-realized part of the drama comes from Ezra's relationship with his wife Mariam (the lucid Mamusu Kallon), a fellow rebel known as Black Diamond. Anchored to these moments, Aduaka finds something believable and natural: Rebels breeding to create more rebels. When you see these teenagers heading out of the ghetto, a feeling of dread washes over the screen; this is a hopeless situation, regardless of what bus you get on.

Though it is only mentioned once, as a rebel accuses the head of the PRF of pilfering, the diamond trade and the heinous state of Africa's guerilla mindset are evoked with subtlety in this modest production. Inside his faulty arches, Aduaka alludes to something grand and haunting, but his filmmaking is neither daring nor confident enough to build solely on the images of these lost souls. Along with his camera, Aduaka gives them a stage.



Ezra

Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 13th February 2008

Distributed by: Film Forum

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Newton I. Aduaka

Producer: Gorune Aprikian, Michel Loro

Starring: Mamoudu Turay Kamara as Ezra, Mariame N'Diaye as Onitcha, Mamusu Kallon as Mariam, Merveille Lukeba as Moses, Richard Gant as Mac Mondale

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