God No Say So

Brigitte Uttar Kornetzky

Switzerland, Sierra Leone 2010, 88 mins,

God No Say So finds the uplifting spirit in those who suffered the hardships of war in Sierra Leone. From the hard-working Bonka people, through the prostitute Julietta, and the wild, hilarious, organized antics of the school children, we are treated to a spirit of togetherness, optimism, and sheer joy.

God No Say So was filmed in Sierra Leone where a civil war raged during the last decade of the 20th century. The film consists of several chapters: victims of amputations from Kabala recounting their experiences; youngsters showing their hiding place during the civil war; a woman named Julietta telling us about her life and hopes for the future; and a journalist speaking of the dire living conditions in a slum. At the start of the film, we get a history lesson in text about the civil war’s background.


This way of conveying more general information recurs later. Filmmaker Brigitte Uttar Kornetzky tells us the film is about what she saw when she visited Sierra Leone four years later: the people. The next thing we see are people from Kabala talking about their experiences during the civil war and more specifically about the killings, mutilations and amputations. In sometimes quite extreme close-ups, various unnamed people recount the atrocities they had to face. As people gather around the central witness, the camera is consciously looking for signs of amputations, scars and other testimonies of the violence.

It feels like talking to someone who looks away instead of into your eyes, not acknowledging their attention to your words. The on-site translator does not help to create any intimacy or a feeling of shared experience in the recounting of these people. Some dreamlike images are interspersed with the accounts of the various individuals, but stylistically it is all too different for the film to create a sense of unity.

Later on, we follow a group of youngsters in Bonka as they show us Aberdeen bridge, their shelter during the war. They give us and the filmmaker a tour of the interior of the bridge and we see where the men slept, ate and bathed. Now the dialogue is in English and the filmmaker reveals herself in her questions. Again we don’t know who these people are or what their lives look like now.

They are just showing us around and telling us about their refuge. Next, a young woman named Julliette shares her struggle for survival while hoping her love will one day return, marry her and take care of her and their children. In a semi-dialogue with a client (or is it her pimp?) about money we find out Julliette’s occupation as well as her wishes for the future. The images are again in close-up and we see little more than the direct surroundings of the locality where Julliette is interviewed. Mohamed Bai Sanu is introduced as a journalist. He points out the horrible conditions in Kroo Bay, a slum in Freetown, and talks about the political failures that have brought about and maintain the status quo. In a semi-stand-up pose, he shares his thoughts on camera. We also see people wandering around in the neighbourhood, children playing, grown-ups hanging around, at times looking back suspiciously.

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