***** (Five stars)
Emmanuel Jal thinks he might be 25. Or 24. Maybe 26. He doesn’t know for sure because there is no record of his birth. But he’s single, if you know anyone looking. Jal jokes about this sort of thing in a meeting with Washington lobbyists as he tells the story of his life as a child soldier in Sudan. This light-hearted personality belies his harrowing experience of having been torn from his family and fighting for his life in the war that ripped through southern Sudan in the 1980s.
Taking Jal as his primary subject, first-time filmmaker C. Karim Chrobog contrasts the young man's success today as an internationally celebrated rapper and indefatigable philanthropist with his past as an abandoned casualty of conflict. Jal ascribes his ability to cope to his “losing certain feelings” as a result of his past. Statements like these fly out his mouth as naturally as the lyrics to his song about an AK-47 he had at the age of seven. This charming frankness, which makes him a great songwriter, also makes him a riveting documentary subject.—Noelle Stout, account manager
[This is a TONY staff review, written for the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. It is not considered an official review and should not be read as such. Please think of it as a casual impression from a movie-loving friend.]