Pray The Devil Back To Hell (2008) dir: Virginia Reticker

Liberia. Heard of it?

Me? Only vaguely. And I keep calling it Iberia – and that’s a European peninsula.

I now know that it’s a country in West Africa (bordering Sierra Leone), created by settlers from America in the 19th Century, some of whom had been freed from slavery. But what is truly amazing, is that until I saw this documentary I had no idea about the remarkable achievement of the woman of that country.

Liberia ticked all the boxes that is often associated with African countries and of the stories reported in the media:

Dictator. Tick. Civil war. Tick. Child soldiers. Tick. Systematic rape of women and female children. Tick. Corruption. Tick. Poverty. Tick.

I know I’m being really flippant here, but hold on a sec. Maybe it’s because it was ‘just another corrupt African country’ that this particular story seems to have been by-passed by the rest of the world, until these filmmakers came across it.

After many years of turmoil, yet another civil war, and watching their husbands forced to fight and their children die, the women of this poor country stood up and said: “Enough”.

Initially, women in Christian and Muslim churches came together to form a group to begin a peaceful protest to try and speak to the country’s leader. They demanded an end to the civil war.  As fighting continued,  the women’s group got bigger and could no longer be ignored and eventually peace talks began. (I’m making it sound easy – it wasn’t). Then the talks broke down, so the women staged a sit in – effectively blocking in the warring factions in their hotel rooms, stopping them from leaving until the peace talks could come to a successful resolution.

In 2005, when democratic elections begun to fall apart (as the UN were doing such an awful job) – the women’s group took over their organisation. Liberia is the only African country with a female president.  Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Why hasn’t she been invited to the USA or UK?

This documentary is a testement to how ordinary people can make a difference and affect change through peaceful means.

When You’re Strange (2009) dir: Tom DiCillo

It was late, nothing else to do, there was a queue – so I joined it. Got ticket and sat down. I had no idea what I was about to see.

Go on surprise and entertain me!!!

A minute or two later the director comes out to introduce his film and to apologise for a title card that was going to come up at the start of the film. Something along the lines that: ‘No actors were used in the making of this film.’

Apparently a few critics had walked out during a previous screening, thinking that actors stood in for The Doors in some of the scenes in the film we were about to see. (Either that or it’s part of a PR stunt).

So, the film starts: Someone who looks like a (bearded) Jim Morrisson out and about in the desert. He turns on the radio in his car. A DJ announces: ‘Today Jim Morrisson was found dead in Paris’.

Okay. Interesting. What’s this about?

And so begins a really interesting documentary about Jim Morrisson and The Doors.  How they got together, how they made their music, concerts, politics – the whole shebang – all with original 35mm footage.

I did not know that Jim Morrisson was a film student and had made some short films – outtakes of one were used to frame this film. And also what’s really amazing was that a friend of Jim Morrisson’s, filmmaker Paul Ferrara, followed The Doors around for years filming them. And so some of his footage is used by director Tom DiCillo to create this new documentary which he also narrates.  Apparently Tom’s narration may be replaced by Johnny Depp who saw the film and offered his services – which may help get the film a theatrical release.

I know a few of The Doors’ most famous songs but that’s about it. So for me most of the music as well as the story of this band were new to me.  If you’re a Doors fan, enjoy, if not you’ll still enjoy.

One thing though, according to the director their music has never been used for a car commercial. Not true. I definitely remember hearing ‘Riders on the Storm’ used for a TV tyre commercial.

Anyway, I’m off to buy some Doors tracks.