The rise in post-apocalyptic fiction over the past half-decade has sprung from a spreading skepticism that mankind can maintain some semblance of order when the "long emergency" finally comes. This lack of faith may be due to what we've seen in recent years in Africa and Eastern Europe, where scarcity and economic collapse has led to outright barbarism, complete with mass genocide, clannish infighting, and human lives being reduced to commodities. Consider Liberia. In 1989, in the midst of violent civil conflict, charismatic warlord Charles Taylor stepped in and built a regime dedicated to making chaos commonplace. Taylor's strategy: Keep Liberian citizens too disorganized to fight back, thus encouraging them to cede more and more power. The scenario that seems all too imitable, even in our enlightened 21st century.
Gini Reticker's documentary Pray The Devil Back To Hell recalls Liberia's darkest days, when Taylor set makeshift armies of drug-addicted pre-teens loose on the streets to terrorize the populace. After a recent string of films and TV news reports about the atrocities in Rwanda, Somalia, and Darfur, Liberia's plight might seem over-familiar to arthouse moviegoers, but the women telling their story to Reticker give her movie particular meaning. In the early '00s, a network of Christian and Muslim women began brainstorming ways to persuade the men of Liberia to lay down their guns. They demonstrated in the marketplace, withheld sex from their husbands, and threatened their sons and brothers with ancient curses. Largely due to their dedication, Taylor was deposed, and in 2005, Liberia elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf their new president. Pray The Devil Back To Hell is overly conventional as a documentary, but it's inspiring as a rebuttal to the declining state of the world at large. It's encouraging to know that the endurance of institutions like marriage and family could hold the key to keeping civilization intact.