They had had enough, watching their not-yet-teenage sons armed with weapons, incited to kill. Seeing their daughters raped and terrorized. Being raped, beaten, threatened.
A testament to the determination and wisdom of a group of Liberian women who banded together in 2003 to stop a civil war and bring peace to their West African nation, Pray the Devil Back to Hell is at once inspiring and horrific.
Inspiring, because it shows what people can do, people resolved to bring about change. After years of horror and carnage, a coalition of Liberia's women, Christians and Muslims alike, rallied together, organized and undaunted, using their numbers and their message to bring about change.
And horrific because of that carnage: the blood-soaked streets, the hundreds of thousands murdered, perpetrated by tribal warlords and a dictator - Charles Taylor - gone mad.
Directed by Gini Reticker with clarity and concision, Pray the Devil Back to Hell combines archival footage, BBC radio news feeds, and newspaper reports with on-camera interviews with key leaders of the female movement. Leymah Gbowee speaks with eloquence about her dream to assemble wives and mothers in a church to pray for peace, and how that first meeting spread to larger protests.
These crowds of women, dressed in white T-shirts, camped in front of a government palace and refusing to budge, are heartening to behold. Bridging the same cultural and religious divide that provided the excuse for a civil war, Gbowee's group and a like-minded team of Muslim women combined forces with a unified goal: remove the guns and bring on the peace.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a remarkable documentary about a remarkable, and historic, movement.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell ***1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Gini Reticker. With Leymah Gbowee, Asatu Bah Kenneth, Vaiba Flomo. Distributed by Balcony Releasing.
Running time: 1 hour, 13 mins.
Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (violent images, adult themes)
Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at http://go.philly.com/inthemix.