I don't know where to begin, or where to start. My Name is Emmanuel Jal, and I was born in war torn Sudan. I do not know when I was born, but I believe I took my first breath of oxygen sometime in the early 80s. My country.
WAR CHILD, an award-winning feature documentary film directed by C. Karim Chrobog, chronicles the tumultuous, shocking, inspiring, and ultimately hopeful odyssey of Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier of Sudan’s brutal civil war and now an emerging international hip-hop star with a message of peace for his wartorn land and his beloved Africa and a mission and a plan to make that possible. Jal’s life story, in many ways, mirrors his homeland: tragedy and terror mingling with hope and restoration.
In the early 1980s, at the age of seven, Jal was swept into Sudan’s civil war, becoming one of 10,000 child soldiers conscripted on both sides of the two decades’ long conflict. After being forced to many horrible things that now seem unimaginable to overcome, he escaped the soldier’s camp and trekked for four months through Africa. He was eventually found and adopted by the now legendary British aid worker Emma McCune; McCune had married Sudanese guerrilla commander Riek Machar whom she convinced to not employ child soldiers. Shortly after she adopted Jal, McCune died in a suspicious car crash, leaving Emmanuel “orphaned” once again. Jal rises from ruthless child soldier to refugee to rap star. He finds his own redemption and life mission through a message of peace that represents one of the 21st centuries’ most inspiring and hopeful journeys, and a metaphor for the broader African predicament.
This full-length documentary on his life and times has been touring the film festival circuit. It premiered at the Berlinale festival this year, and won the Cadillac audience choice award at the Tribeca film festival. It premiers in NYC on Friday, November 7th with world-wide release the following week.
Emmanuel’s journey is, in many ways, just beginning. His dream of Gua, peace, in Sudan, and prosperity in Africa, is threatened by corrupt leaders, genocidal warlords, and Western indifference. Hopefully, Emmanuel’s peace – his quest to make the world a better place through his music, activism and youth education – will prove to be far more significant than Emmanuel’s former war.