The documentarist Morten Vest came across the archive of the Danish branch of Sudan United Mission and combined it with present day interviews. The result is an ahistorical, yet interesting narration.
The Redeemed tells the story of how a small group of Danish missionaries created a big Christian congregation from their base in the Bachama people’s area Numan. The town Numan is today located in the western part of Nigeria, but in the early 20th century the area belonged to Sudan. The narrative of the film is structured around the 1913 diary notes of the missionary Niels Brønnum. At the beginning of that year, he and his pregnant wife Margaret Brønnum made their first travel to «the dark Sudan» as part of the Sudan United Mission – an international (American dominated) endeavour.
At the beginning of the film, we meet the last Danish missionary in the area, Rikke Vestergaard, who doubts that anyone will replace her when she soon retires. Missioning is not what it used to be. Though her age is becoming a burden, her sense of duty and her Christian calling keep her from letting go of her work in Sudan. Every time she visits Denmark on the other hand, she seems to wonder: «What are you doing here, no one needs you here.»
It is Vestergaard who first articulates a subtheme of the film, namely the United Sudan Mission’s antagonistic relation to Islam. She does so by stating that there is one agreement that can never be made: Muslims giving up «holy war» and Christians giving up their missionary obligation in return. Christianity simply wouldn‘t be Christianity without missioning, she asserts. After Vestergaard’s remarks, the film moves on to archive recordings that show how the Sudan United Mission from its very outset was intended to prevent the spreading of Islam into areas south of Sahara.
«A documentary about the colonial history of mission in this particular area is naturally very relevant.»
In light of the present-day Boko Haram-movement in Nigeria, a documentary about the colonial history of the mission in this particular area is naturally very relevant. It is, however, characteristic of the film that it does not contextualize the Sudan United Mission: One gets the (incorrect) impression that Vestergaard and Brønnum’s struggle against the spread of Islam represents Christian missioning as such when in fact this was a particular trait of this particular mission.
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