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The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia

Last year I rented an acclaimed documentary whose trailer had completely sold me, on a topic I’m passionately curious about.  I learned very little from it.  Cannibal Warlords of Liberia changed how I viewed warfare and war makers; the world; the history of the world; the Third World; the First World; and documentary cinema.  It’s not sensational and does not depict or show cannibalism; it’s a voyage to Liberia, into Monrovia, featuring interviews with locals, including criminals and civil warlords and police.  It’s like watching the best National Geographic article ever.  Everyone should see the first 40 minutes of this 53 minute piece.   

I’ve briefly visited the Third World; I’ve traveled on a jeep through the forest to Cap-Haitien and visited a local orphanage and long-term care hospital. I’ve heard stories of headless corpses discovered off the coast, set adrift in loose boats.  I was not prepared for some of the shocks and realizations I encountered in watching The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia.  I was naive.

It is an amazing and memorable history lesson: I had known that Liberia was a state for freed slaves, but I had no idea that America actually created it and deported ex-slaves there!  Monrovia is named after James Monroe!  One person even says he and his friends think of Liberia as “Little America”.

Cannibal Warlords of Liberia offers a tremendous, important glimpse into human nature in different conditions. It sounds easy and obvious to suggest that everyone dig some holes in the beach to use as common latrines, yet it’s obviously much harder than that, or the locals would have gotten around to it already. Without a structure and formal civic authority representing and organizing the community, conditions can’t rise above squalor, even tho the residents by the beach would all want to create and to benefit from having an organized latrine system.  We are incredible animals to observe.  The people who think that government needs to be drowned in a bathtub must witness this incredible, frightening, profound footage.

I was reluctant to watch this video as it was produced by a cynical fashion magazine, however Cannibal Warlords of Liberia is the best use of sound-equipped cinema utilized in investigative journalism, period.  It’s really worth watching; I applaud and thank this magazine for making this show.  If you know a better documentary about yours and my world today, please let me know its name.