Born in Battle

Born in Battle [Video] – Vienna’s Secret

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Born in Battle – A child soldier is haunted by nightmares where he must make a life-or-death choice.

By Omeleto

Oneka is 12 years old. He is also a former child soldier, forced to kill and fight by rebels who came upon Oneka and his grandmother on a walk one day, brutally killed her and kidnapped the young boy.

Oneka manages to escape and returns to his village. But he has changed from his time as a child soldier, where he learned to deaden himself inside to commit barbaric atrocities. He wrestles with the trauma of his past, retreating into dreams and fantasies of a normal, more comfortable life.

But his fantasies begin to turn into nightmares, as his trauma bleeds into them. His dreamscapes become increasingly disturbing — and soon twist back into reality, as the rebels come back to his village and force him to stand in front of his parents and sister, offering him a choice between life and death.

Inspired by the true stories of former child soldiers, writer-director Yangzom Brauen’s powerful drama has much in common with fantasy and horror films as it does with social and political dramas. Its form and style play with the malleability of time and place, blending disturbing naturalistic scenes of violence with flights of grounded fantasy, rendered with luminous images and lyrical camerawork.

There is also the harrowing emotional intensity inherent to horror — only here, the horror is based on the real-life experiences of child soldiers in Africa. Many of these experiences are not visually dramatized in the film, but they’re depicted in Oneka’s monologue, which runs as a voiceover throughout the film. Voiceover can be a narrative crutch, but here it plays lays out just how Oneka was inculcated and brainwashed into a traumatic, horrific culture of violence.

Many of the atrocities mentioned by Oneka are mercifully not visualized, but their details bleed into the fantasies he escapes into, whether blood is running out of a faucet or the severed limbs of people he was forced to kill. The “intrusions” of Oneka’s violent past increase and young actor Roland Kilumbu captures Oneka’s haunted heaviness with gravity well beyond his years. As his past catches up to Oneka, the suspense and pacing intensifies, until fantasy collides into reality in a climax devastating in its starkness and brutality.

“Born In Battle” is about an almost unbearable subject matter, one that violates all norms of human decency. Yet child soldiers deserve to have their stories witnessed and heard, often for their healing. The storytelling takes us inside the emotional and imaginative landscape of a child, where they often naturally retreat to, even in the best of circumstances.

But even in this sacred space, trauma and violence finds Oneka, showing just how damaged he is from having innocence wrenched away from him, only to be thrown into the darkest impulses of humanity. The final images of the film offer some consolation in their cinematic transcendence, but any resolution won — by Oneka and by the viewer — is as fragile as peace.

Born in Battle

Transcript provided by YouTube:

01:12

i always dreamt of a house far away from

01:19

a place i saw in the newspaper

01:29

my mother used to say that a family tie

01:34

it can bend but it cannot break

01:38

and although i did not understand the

01:40

meaning of it at the time

01:43

i laid in wait watching the wind trying

01:51

the winds can be very strong and i

02:04

grandmother and i used to go to the

02:09

i was always in a hurry i wanted to

02:12

spend as much time in the city as

02:16

it was different from my life in the

02:20

i would find things on the ground

02:24

but treasures for me i had a collection

02:31

those items took me to places i’ve never

02:37

but one day on their way to the city

03:12

until then i had never heard the sound

03:21

the rebels told me that tears are fully

03:39

and for that they made me lie down on

04:00

after one year with the rebels i knew

04:08

i would be like the others ruthless

04:53

i decided to escape i waited till it was

04:59

i ran all night hiding at first light

05:09

i don’t know how many nights i spent in

05:11

the bush till i made it home

05:14

maybe a week maybe longer

05:20

i could not get rid of my gun it was my

05:25

my friend it was my savior

05:40

my parents didn’t even recognize me

05:45

they had hope that i didn’t change for

05:56

but i had become someone else i was very

06:06

they made me furious and sometimes

06:20

my parents tried their best but they

06:31

i always dreamt of a place far away from

06:38

i liked our village it was a simple life

06:45

in the morning i helped my mother sweep

06:50

my father was in the fields with the

06:55

i would play ball and hide and seek with

07:00

but i knew i didn’t want to live the

07:02

same life like my parents

07:06

i wanted to live in the city learn to

07:13

in my dreams i lived in a different

07:20

but the rebels took away my dreams

07:28

i’m scared not to sleep

08:05

killing happened every day and i became

08:12

when you see something over and over

08:15

it doesn’t affect you anymore

08:21

it came to the point where i would come

08:26

and i will just jump over it and

08:44

they sliced and fried them first

08:48

they said i had to do this to conquer my

08:56

human blood was the first thing i would

09:36

the sound of crying babies i was there

09:41

i helped them when we captured women and

09:45

they separated the babies from their

09:51

they loaded their guns and shot their

09:59

then they killed the babies

10:03

they swung them by their legs

10:07

and smashed them against the tree

10:51

i did not want to die i feel the

11:09

six months after i fled the rebels

11:12

early one morning rebels from another

11:15

group attacked our village

11:19

they needed more children to fight for

11:38

you are going nowhere still

12:00

the spirit of people i kill haunt me

12:04

a woman i killed would come to me asking

12:12

most times i join i have a gun

12:17

i’m killing i’m firing

12:29

i feel afraid thinking that perhaps

12:32

these things will happen again

12:40

when i killed for the first time i was

13:04

i thought maybe everything was just a

13:08

and i was still that boy who loves to

13:12

and collect things from the city streets

14:22

the rebels told me by killing my parents

14:26

it would be a sign of courage you got to

14:35

i want you to shoot there

14:41

finish them my mother begged me to do

14:43

what i had to do to save my life

14:53

i was not afraid to die anymore

15:00

if you do not shoot them your sister

15:04

huh it was my only escape to never wake

15:28

people why ah i want you to kill him

16:14

coldness started creeping into my body

16:18

and the trembling started

16:22

i looked at my body from the outside

16:27

i knew i would die death was trying to

16:34

my soul was already outside of my body

16:40

suddenly i couldn’t hear anything

17:00

i understand now what my mother meant

17:05

a family tie can never break just bend

17:12

i still have the nightmares

17:35

but sometimes i wish i would be dead

17:41

the world is a journey but the world to

17:47

for now you on your journey

This post was previously published on YouTube.


Photo credit: Screenshot from video

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