Beasts of No Nation: Beautiful and Brutal Africa

Something that is not being discussed enough when talking about Netflix’s first feature film, Beasts of No Nation, is just how beautiful it is. It seems like a small thing to highlight, but I just couldn’t get over how beautiful the film and, to the point, Ghana looked.

When I truly think about it, the regular images of Africa I see are pretty hellish – they’re images of extreme poverty, illness, malnourishment and war. I hardly ever see images of beauty or joy unless I am watching a BBC wildlife documentary.

Yes, Beasts of No Nation is brutal, it is hard to watch, uncompromising and despair inducing at times, but somehow the natural beauty of Africa still managed to seep through all of the horror the film depicts.

Frankly, the film which was directed AND shot by some talented bloke named Cary Fukunaga (an African name if I ever heard one… also he directed True Detective – the first series), deserves every bit of praise it is getting. Before watching, I feared that the film was being over hyped, but Beasts of No Nation is simply stunning.

The film reminds me of City of God and in some instances Hotel Rwanda – both much better films but Beasts of No Nation still deserves to be in the conversation.

I’m not going to bore you with my man crushing dross over Idris Elba, who once again shows his godly talents in the film, but allow me to spend a few lines on Abraham Attah. I do not believe Attah, who is 15 years old, has never acted before this film – I simply don’t believe it. Watching this sweet young boy go through the emotions of losing everything from his family, his childhood and his innocence is heartbreaking. There is a harrowing scene where Idris’ Commandant asks Attah’s Agu to do an unspeakable deed that just gave me chills – I will never ever forget that scene for as long as I live.

This film only (ha!) cost $6 million to make – which is chump change in Hollywood, yet the traditional Hollywood studios wanted nothing to do with this film. That tells you all you need to know. But Netflix’s bravery in picking this film up could  be the starting gun for a new era in film and how pictures are financed and distributed.

I find the possibilities of this new world to be exciting and I can’t wait to see what original films Netflix has up its sleeve.

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