Infused with a strong sense of moral outrage, “The Empire in Africa” provides more heat than light while attempting to explain the motives and methods of combatants who waged the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone. Despite its literal and figurative overkill in presenting images of horrific violence, pic could find receptive auds at niche fests and nonprofit venues.
Filmmaker Philippe Diaz makes a strong case for blaming the international community in general, and the United Nations in particular, for the needless protraction of a conflict that left 70,000 dead and millions displaced. Unfortunately, he undermines his reasoned (and largely persuasive) arguments by often coming across as an apologist for rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. Filmmaker even suggests Sierra Leone government officials were merely pitching propaganda while displaying victims of RUF atrocities. (Thousands of civilians had limbs amputated or were otherwise maimed by rebel forces.) To his credit, however, Diaz also acknowledges there is plenty of blame to go around when documenting the deaths of innocent bystanders during more than a decade of hostilities. “The Empire in Africa” won the jury prize for docus at Slamdance 2006.