Movie Review: The Redemption of General Butt Naked

Yep. The title served its purpose. Sucked you in, just as it did to me on Friday night. I love documentaries, mainly because I discover more about the human condition. Well, this film causes you think very hard about forgiveness and the limits people will allow others to be forgiven.

Joshua Milton Blahyi, a.k.a. General Butt Naked, was responsible for thousands of deaths during the Liberian civil war. Men, women, and children all were innocent victims of his evil rampage. As a Liberian warlord, he often went into battle wearing nothing but a pair of shoes, an AK-47, and a machete. He feared no man, and believed it was his mission to eliminate people who opposed him. He recruited children for his “army” and used their fearlessness, naivety, and depravity to serve his destructive purposes. His presence and father-like nature propelled these children to massacre thousands of innocent people at his very command. General Butt Naked terrorized villages throughout Liberia, striking fear in the hearts of the villagers with just the utterance of his name. His power and evil was unmeasurable. Then, one night in 1996, he became a Christian.

Now you are really intrigued. It only gets more intense and complex.The movie continues to explore the depth of this man known as General Butt Naked and now Joshua the Evangelist. Blahyi is married with several children. His wife knows of his past and his children love him and look up to their father in a typical fashion. Little do they know, his past is marred with more murders than can be accounted for. He loves his wife and children too. How can a man who was so maniacal be able to love so genuinely now?

We only briefly see the evil atrocities of the General. The focus of the documentary is the journey Joseph now travels. But they give us a glimpse into his past with clips of him describing how he operated in during his rampage. Here is a mass murderer candidly talking about his redemption, yet  he casually speaks of his horrid offenses as if he doesn’t understand the impact he’s had on so many people’s lives. Years later, as he recounts his past battles in the streets, he boasts of feeling invincible and compelled to kill. Even in the moments when retelling of his past offenses it seems surreal. But he’s still so captivating and completely intriguing. His personality confuses the viewer because Blahyi doesn’t seem bothered by his past life as one would expect. He admits to being forgiven by Jesus for the evil he committed, but empathy for his plight seems hard to find. His frankness about his past is almost off putting. Remorse in his words requires sleuth-like investigation and interpretation. This ambiguity is most intriguing.

Now, he adamantly preaches the redemptive power of Jesus and clings to His mercy as if it’s his last breath of air. But, this is where the story causes an internal struggle. How or should we forgive a man who has committed such heinous and malicious hate crimes? Where is the justice in his victims’ story? His life has been redeemed, but has theirs?

Joseph’s mission since 1997 has been solely to preach the Gospel of Jesus and seek out those whom he caused harm towards and ask them for their forgiveness. The first scene in which the documentary allows the viewer to see General Butt Naked’s request for forgiveness is beyond intense. My heart was pounding fervently in anticipation of the meeting. I found myself held captive with hundreds of emotions/questions stirring in my head. How would I respond to meeting my parents murder? Could I forgive? Has he changed his ways? Should I retaliate? The struggle I would be find most turmoil with is Jesus’ grace powerful enough for this man’s actions?

Blahyi’s repentance and conversion are also a point of controversy too. Some of his former soldiers have also converted to Christianity and once again look to Joseph for answers and guidance. Conversely, others also close to the General’s past question his motives and validity. They claim he will always have selfish, alternative means for the open parade of his repentance. The best part of this documentary is its failure to give you a side of the fence on which to stand. You are left to decide and judge.

After an hour and a half of exposure into Joseph Milton Blahyi’s life I am still left thinking. His personality is hypnotizing and polarizing. He claims the monstrous chapter in his life is closed and a new, life giving, healing one has now begun. Butt Naked may be changed, and his iniquities may have been forgiven by Jesus. But, we are looking at a man still free in society who has personally been responsible for the blood shed of over 20,000 men, women, and children. Forgiving is hard. Forgetting is even harder. This documentary challenges your thinking and causes a self examination of our own hearts. Should we rejoice in the redemption of a man’s soul or is outrage the proper response because justice has yet to be served? This film is a must watch and I would highly recommend it. I’m not sure where it is available, but I watched it on the Audience Network (channel 500 on DIRECTV). Here is a link to the movie’s website as well.


Posted on by Colin Stovall in Featured, Movie Reviews, Movies

One Response to Movie Review: The Redemption of General Butt Naked

  1. CTW

    wow… he still should pay the price for his crimes

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