We Were Rebels

We Were Rebels

We Were Rebels

2014, Germany, 58', 93', Katharina von Schroeder | Florian Schewe

2014, Germany, 58', 93', Katharina von Schroeder | Florian Schewe

We Were Rebels

Synopsis

The civil wars between the predominantly Arab Muslim north and the African Christian south of Sudan raged for decades. It was only in 2005 that a peace agreement was finally signed that allowed Southern Sudan to vote on its independence. With a majority of 99%, the Republic of South Sudan was declared an independent state in July 2011. The atmosphere was euphoric, and the country’s people were full of hope for a better, self-determined future.

The documentary film WE WERE REBELS tells the story of Agel, a former child soldier who returns home to help build South Sudan – the youngest country in the world. Agel becomes captain of South Sudan’s first national basketball team, hoping that sporting success will help his people regain the sense of self-dignity that they lost during the years of war. Over 2.5 million people died in the conflict, and a large part of the population fled the country. Agel himself lost almost all his male relatives, including his father and two of his brothers. He and his mother fled to Ethiopia where he trained in a military camp. At just twelve years old he went off to war, armed with an AK-47. Later he managed to flee via Kenya to Australia, where he was able to complete school and continue his education.

Agel sees himself as one of the lucky ones for having had this opportunity, and wants to use his knowledge to help develop his homeland. But this is no easy task: South Sudan is still flooded with armaments and the country’s infrastructure was never really developed – there are barely any proper roads, schools or hospitals. In addition, the top-ranking politicians are all former generals and still militaristic in their outlook. Even in the country’s first international basketball game against Uganda, conflicts soon emerge over (game) tactics and hierarchies. But Agel remains optimistic, motivating the team to work harder. “These problems don’t just arise in sport – they are evident across the whole country,” he says. “We must have the strength to keep on fighting until something changes.”

Following an injury, Agel’s sporting career comes to an abrupt end. He starts managing an NGO that drills drinking water wells in some of the country’s most remote areas that are still affected by war. With unwavering faith and a great deal of humor, Agel faces the obstacles of everyday life – from unhygienic food to broken roads that even allterrain vehicles cannot navigate. When his two-year-old daughter falls ill with malaria, he firmly believes that she can overcome the illness.

But the country’s economic recovery is not advancing as hoped. South Sudan is dependent on oil revenues, which account for 97% of the national budget. However, the pipelines for the oil’s export run through the north of the country, where this position is exploited to exert political pressure. Disagreements over the course of the border bring oil production to a standstill, and many development projects grind to a halt. Even worse, however, is the increased internal political tension. Just two years after the founding of the state, a power struggle escalates between the president and former vice-president that plunges the country into chaos. The conflict spreads among the country’s tribes, turning into what Agel describes as a “pointless war”. After getting his family to safety, he sees no other option than to fight as a soldier once again.

 

DOK Munich 2014 | IDFA Amsterdam 2014 | DocPoint Helsinki 2015 | Human Rights Human Wrongs Film Festival Oslo 2015 | Days of European Film Prague 2015 | Nashville Film Festival 2015