God No Say So
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.