Ali Samadi Ahadi & Oliver Stolz.
Germany 2004, 97 min.
The LRA abducts children as young as 8 years old and forces them to fight against their own people. Yet the LRA’s methods also include chopping their victims into small pieces using machetes.
Lost Children insists on not letting us forget this war. Although it fills our head with a few genuinely disturbing photos of mutilated bodies at the beginning and end of the film, fortunately most of the film focuses on the words and actions of the children. The film follows four children who have escaped from the LRA, starting with the time they arrive at a rehabilitation centre, their ‘therapy’ and their return to ‘normal’ life. The main issue is not the tragedy of their experiences in the bush, but one even harsher: their family’s rejection. After having been subjected to the most unimaginable events, they need the comfort of a family more than anything else in the world but are rejected by them. It may seem cruel, but unfortunately it is understandable: the rebels threaten the parents and tell them they will kill everybody if the children return.
Brief, concise background information on the conflict is given in the beginning, though the children’s stories are told by themselves, and we listen in on and watch their conversations with social workers. The social workers and the film give them the necessary time and peace to settle in and relax and we move into the children stories little by little. We go with them to meet their family for the first time and, finally, as they return to live with a family member or at an orphanage.
Though the focus is on the rehabilitation, their conversations give us an idea of life in the bush. The children recount in detail some of the atrocities they committed, experiences which keep haunting them. Pictures of mutilated bodies are terrifying to watch, of course, but the effect of hearing the children tell about the atrocities is somehow stronger as it actually makes you realize that this is not an adult photographer, but a child who has experienced what nobody should ever experience.
Lost Children is a carefully made work, composed of beautiful pictures, edited into an elegant flow where some passages are supported with music to stress the mood of the scenes. The camera is omnipresent and sensuous and you sense that the interviewees feel comfortable with the camera. It is cinematically successful and, at the same time, crucially important.