"Beasts Of No Nation": Why everyone should watch it

NOTE: This blog may contain mild spoilers about the movie. However, I believe that even after knowing some of the plot points I have discussed, it should not affect your experience of the movie. This movie is about a journey, an experience. My description of it should not take away from your experience. Carry on reading.

Perhaps, some of you may recall me mentioning this movie in class several times. I've only recommended it so much because it is a movie that I've watched multiple times ever since it was released. With each watch, I feel even more moved by the story. This was especially so after I watched this movie for the fourth time while taking this course. This may not have a lot to do with education, but it has everything to do with conflict and children.


This reveals a layer of war that goes unnoticed by many. I agree that child soldiers such as Agu (the lead child role) may not be found in every conflict, but he is important for what he signifies. He signifies the loss of innocence that comes with war. One of the biggest unmarked casualties of war; the human conscience. I believe that everyone taking this course should watch this movie for multiple reasons. Firstly, it will truly help establish the perspective and plight of children raised in a region with conflict. The temporary nature of their lives, the possibility that they must uproot their lives at any moment if trouble comes to their doorstep. Their literal doorstep. It is a big ask of a child, in such circumstances, to continue their education. Secondly, the psychological effect on children post-conflict even if they have not been engaged in violence directly themselves. Children are more than likely to suffer from indirect violence or atleast the consequences of it; the death of their parent, friend, teacher, neighbor and any other who hold influence in their lives.


Unfortunately, Agu was a direct victim of the violence that occurred in the civil war depicted in this film. This was a war he had nothing to do with. He did not choose his part in any of it, whatever he did was for survival. All of the violence and bloodshed he committed was coerced by a ‘father figure’ of sorts. A symbol of authority; the commandant (played by Idris Elba). By the end of the movie, Agu realizes that he’s been taken advantage of and that the commandant used him (as he did all his peers) for selfish reasons. After the death of his father and older brother, the commandant was all he had. This is why after he left the commandant, he had trouble accepting anyone in that particular role. Conflict had warped his perspective of ‘normal’ life. Conflict had disfigured him.



I have attached one of the final scenes from the movie. I cannot describe how it makes me feel every time I watch it. Look at Agu’s eyes throughout the scene.


“I saw terrible things... and I did terrible things. So if I'm talking to you, it will make me sad and it will make you too sad. In this life... I just want to be happy in this life.”


Agu to his counsellor



Agu’s entire conversation with his counsellor explains the metamorphosis of Agu. He refers to himself as a man and talks of the 28-year-old counsellor as a little girl. He says that he has fought war and she does not even know what war is. How could she possibly help him? At risk of paraphrasing the entire sequence, I will stop here. Watch this powerful scene.



Like Agu, there are many children who have escaped conflict, truly harrowing circumstances, but not entirely. They have been physically removed but their minds remain attached. They exist in purgatory between what they were before and what they have turned into after.


“If I'm telling this to you... you will think that... I am some sort of beast... or devil. I am all of these things... but I also having mother... father... brother and sister once. They loved me.”


I wish this purely fictional and not reality. My heart shudders when I think there are more children like Agu. Indeed, every war is a war against children.

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