The African nation of Liberia had long suffered from internal tensions, but it was President Charles Taylor who exploited the population’s class schisms and religious differences into seemingly endless civil war. Finally, in 2002, a group of Christian women decided they could no longer sit idly by. They formed a coalition that insisted Taylor and the warlord rebels who opposed him stop fighting; Muslim women echoed their counterparts’ demands for peace. Initially, the angry activists staged sit-ins and borrowed a page from Lysistrata (no sex until there’s a cease-fire). They even coordinated a summit between the sides, physically preventing delegates from leaving until an agreement had been signed. These devout citizens might not have been able to pray the devil back to hell, but in the end, they helped depose a despot and gained political pull.
Like a well-tuned Dateline episode, Gini Reticker’s documentary adheres to a no-nonsense journalistic route: News footage and first-person interviews are presented with minimal stylistic brouhaha. Not that a spoonful of sugary technique is a must—the horror speaks for itself—yet such by-the-book filmmaking creates a déjà vu effect. The same can’t be said for the movie’s message, however; if nothing else, Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a potent reminder of what power in numbers can accomplish.