Beasts of No Nation Nailed It, Diasporically Speaking

Beast of No Nation, released on Netflix in October, 2015.

I watched Beasts of No Nation on Netflix (shout-out to Maurice for letting me on his account!) a couple of weeks ago.  And I seriously haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

I was moved when I read Uzodinma Iweala’s best-selling novel of the same name when it came out back in 2005. The subject matter of civil war in Africa and the life of a child soldier was a lot for me to mentally get over at the time. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be another stereotypical depiction of Africa and Africans in disarray. But I was glad I gave it a chance. It rocked me. I actually felt like a more compassionate person after I read it.

Beasts was shot in Ghana last year, after Netflix bought the worldwide streaming and theatrical rights to the film for $12 million. Both rights are essential for the film’s Oscar run. There are already whispers that it could win.

If you’re like me and are typically late to music and films that can change your life, don’t worry. It’s not too late to watch Beasts before the award season. And in case you need a little motivation, here are my top four reasons why this is the best Diasporan film to come out in a while:

  1. Idris Elba. Because, who doesn’t love them some him? I usually don’t have crushes on popular celebrities, but I can’t deny that he’s delectable. And really talented. Without fail, the man can pull off the role of a Black American street pharmacist, abusive and power-hungry West African warlord, South African head of state Nelson Mandela, debonair American gangster who looks ridiculously suave in suits, and devoted single father to Black Southern American girls.  In Beasts of No Nation, I believed this man in all his wickedness. Well done, Idris.
  2. The rest of the cast. Don’t hate on me for putting Idris in his own category; he got it like that. That aside, the actors in the film — most of whom were total rookies– are absolutely incredible. The family scenes are palatable, and their portrayals of living in a war-torn region are heart-wrenchingly human. And my God! Somebody please give Ghana’s own Abraham Attah, the film’s 11-year old child soldier, every freaking acting award possible. I’m turned all the way up just thinking about how a relatively unknown child actor was able to pull off such a range of skill on topics dealing with death, loss, despair, and survival. He killed it every second he was on screen.
  3. The geographic and cultural landscape. The best Diasporan feature of the film is that the actual West African locations and cultures represented throughout it are deliberately left unknown. Genius! At times we’re hearing Twi (which makes sense being that the film was shot in Ghana), pidgin, and English, among others. Like the journey of the child soldiers themselves, the cultures and languages stay moving and keep us on our toes. I’m here for it.
  4. Uzodinma Iweala. He’s a Nigerian author and physician who wrote the 2005 novel, which was based on his thesis while at Harvard University. He’s won literary awards including the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award and was named one of Granta magazine’s 20 best young American novelists in 2007. Oh, and did I mention that he’s a doctor? AND physician?  And Harvard graduate?!!??! All I can say is that his fiancé is one lucky lady. Yeah, girl. He popped the question earlier this month. Let’s have a moment of silence for what could have been.

Please check out this movie. And let me know what you think!


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