Ezra

The blood-diamond industry and its victims get a properly Afro-centric makeover in this fevered drama about a traumatized former child soldier cracking up under questioning by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone. Unsparing, pedagogic, and genuinely compelling, Ezra, like Ed Zwick's 2006 Blood Diamond, supplies context aplenty for the armed children springing up all over Africa, fingering the tainted diamond industry that lines the pockets of Northern Hemisphere profiteers while exacerbating vicious civil wars across the continent. But U.K.-based Nigerian director Newton I. Aduaka, working with a modest budget and no Hollywood stars, offers a character study at once more personal and political than Zwick's flashier picture. Kidnapped by rebel thugs while skipping to school in his peaceful village, Ezra—played as a teenager with brooding intensity by Mamoudu Turay Kamara—suffers brutal brainwashing topped up with hallucinatory drugs that dehumanize him into a killing machine. Once he's rescued, only amnesia protects him from total disintegration. The recovery of his past is complicated by his sister (Mariame N'Diaye), who has lost her tongue but finds her voice in public testimony. Though far from subtle, Ezra movingly complicates the distinction between victim and aggressor, forgetting and forgiving, while cutting the glibness from the claim that the truth shall set you free.

 
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