Samples Movies Documentary: Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Documentary: Pray the Devil Back to Hell

906 words 4 page(s)

The 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell recounts the events which led to the halting of a fourteen year civil war within the boundaries of the west African nation of Liberia. This civil war largely unfolded along sectarian religious lines, as the President of the country, Charles Taylor, who portrayed himself as a firm defender of the Christian belief, found his government’s forces at war with Muslim rebels. The ongoing and never-ending nature of this conflict prompted the forming of a group, Women of Liberia Mass Action of Peace, consisting of both Muslim and Christian Liberian women. The group, which was started by a social worker, Leymah Gbowee, began to organize protests and public prayers, in an attempt to force the stopping of the conflict.

This real gathering of women from both the Christian and Muslim communities, both demanding peace, thus demonstrated that the desire for peace was something that was shared and therefore transcended religious dimensions. The striking power of these protests, accentuated by the symbolic gesture of women joining these protests wearing all white clothing, showed itself in its success, as President Charles Taylor was ultimately inclined to grant a meeting with the group so as to hear their demands for peace. Peace talks were eventually conducted between the factions in nearby Accra, Ghana, and the presence of the group also at these peace talks contributed to an agreement between the government and the rebels being reached, thus ending the civil war.

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The film thus presents a powerful example of how even those who appear to have no power in society are ultimately able to force those who do hold power to listen to their voice. This unexpected shift can be attributed in large part to the remarkable leadership of Gbowee, who undertook various strategies to make the movement successful, such as the unifying of Muslim and Christian women, as well as the powerful symbolism of the movement itself. This is a clear example of when sound leadership can have radical social effects.

The case study of the Women of Liberia Mass Action of Peace demonstrates a number of affinities with hypotheses for successful leadership in contemporary management theory, such as those outlined by Gundling, Hogan and Cvitkovich. (2011) Clearly, the presence of a strong individual leader, such as Gbowee, was necessary to the success of the movement. But what can be learned from the case study is precisely the dimensions which Gbowee stressed in the formation of this organization. According to the precise context of the conflict that Gbowee’s leadership was to tackle, arguably most crucial to the movement’s success was that it employed “intercultural perspectives on leadership.” (Gundling, Hogan & Cvitkovich, 2011) Gundling, Hogan & Cvitkovich (2011, 4) stress that in an increasingly globalized world, where intercultural interactions are the norm instead of the exception, that the successful leader must take into account cultural differences. Within the context of the civil war in Liberia, such an emphasis on intercultural perspectives was absolutely necessary to the success of the movement. If Gbowee had only emphasized one side of the conflict, either the Christian or the Islamic, the movement would obviously have only repeated the terms of the initial conflict. The entire success of Gbowee stemmed from the inclusion of both Muslim and Christian women so as to demonstrate a powerful protest from all sides involved in the war against the war itself.

In other words, the accomplishments of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace can also be understood through the concept of “closing the gap”, or “results through relationships” and “frame-shifting.” (Gundling, Hogan & Cvitkovich) The entire strategy of the movement was, in effect, to “close the gap” and allow another voice to be heard in the civil war. On the one hand, the success of the movement can be seen clearly as the derivative of “results through relationships.” Once again, if the movement had not united both Christian and Muslim women, then it would only have repeated the religious divide that was the basis of the Liberian civil war. The entire results obtained by the movement came from the relationship between Christian and Muslim which was its very foundation. Yet another key leadership strategy employed was that of “frame-shifting.” The civil war essentially continued because it was understood, by its participants as well, as a war between two sides, a narrative of Christian against Muslim.

So long as this narrative remained in place, the civil war continued. What the movement accomplished was precisely to shift the narrative frame. If the war had understood itself to be a war of Christian against Muslim, Gbowee’s group now created a new narrative, whereby both Christians and Muslims now wanted to the war to end. Essentially, in the civil war, there had been two sides: Christian and Muslim. What Gbowee did was shift the frame, so that there was now a third side present, which wanted the war to end, and included both Christians and Muslims. The frame was shifted, in so far as the previous way of understanding and living within the conflict was no longer applicable, because the movement managed to “close the gap” between the two sides, thereby creating a third position that showed that the narrative frame of the conflict was not applicable to all Liberians. The Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace is a brilliant example of global leadership concepts being employed so as to effect radical and significant change.

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