A brisk, affecting and tightly coiled documentary snapshot of the transformative power of moral courage, Pray the Devil Back to Hell tells the remarkable story of a group of fed-up women whose demonstrations and non-violent demands for peace finally helped transform their war-ravaged homeland of Liberia. During a brutal, decade-long campaign that displaced one-third of the country’s population, Liberia’s poor were held hostage between self-anointed President Charles Taylor and thuggish warlord factions jockeying for their own future power. Standing up against rape, murder and child militias, the struggle of these women would eventually culminate with the exile of Taylor and the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state.
Giving wide berth to their inspiring interview subjects, director Gina Reticker and originating producer Abigail Disney construct a film that is heart-rending and enraging in equal measure, even if they don’t scratch much beyond the surface of some of the more interesting subcomponents of the story — which include the potentially fractious working union between Christian and Muslim congregations, as well as a coercive sex strike to bend husbands to their cause. Human understanding and betterment are achieved mostly through bearing witness, and this film, similar in mission to the work of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, provides powerful firsthand testimony of the capacity for decency to eventually trump evil. For more information on the film, click here. (Balcony Releasing, unrated, 72 minutes)