I think at best Dutch film director and screenwriter Jean van de Velde’s 2008 movie The Silent Army, or to give it its Dutch title Wit Light, is commendable in that it raises awareness, which in it self is never a bad thing, about a situation that we probable no very little about. But in this case it’s the story that’s a little far fetched, but not of course the problem it highlights, in this case the problem with and the hardships of child soldiers in Africa. Admittedly not the first film to be made about the subject, Johnny Mad Dog a French/Liberian film directed by Jean-Stephane Savaire was also released in 2008.
Dutchman Eduard Zuiderwijk owns and runs a restaurant conveniently located close to a conflict area involved in a civil war. When his wife (Ricky Koole) is killed in a car crash he is left to bring up his nine-year-old son Thomas (Siebe Schoneveld). Thomas’s best friend is a wee African boy whose mother works in the restaurant, but when rebels raid the village they live in Abu (Andrew Kintu) if forced to hack his crippled father to death with a machete. He is then abducted and taken to join the army of the rebel leader, a vicious psychopath, Michel Obeke (Abby Mukiibi Nkaage) to be trained as a child soldier. The rather naïve Thomas tries to persuades his father to search out the abducted boy and rescue him. Eduard, who you think would no better, closes the restaurant and takes his son on an ‘unarmed’ car journey to find the missing boy.
What spoils the film for me is the character of Eduard Zuiderwijk whose actions and story line are extremely far fetched. Going off into the wild and dangerous countryside where no one dares to go "without an army" with a nine-year-old child in tow to find another child who, along with all the other members of the child army, has been completely brainwashed in to killing anyone that Obeke, now known as ‘daddy’, instructs them too! Into all this bedlam is injected a love interest for Eduard in the form of the blonde good-looking NGO worker Valerie (Thekla Reuten) who along with a rather dubious looking photojournalist (Peter van den Begin) do actually try to talk the restaurateur out of his highly perilous rescue mission into rebel territory, but surprise surprise, to no avail.
Marco Borsato, in his debut role, play’s Eduard Zuiderwijk. Borsato, who is one of the most successful and biggest grossing musical artists in the Netherlands and has been so for the past twenty years, is an ambassador of the Dutch NGO War Child, which helps children in (post) conflict areas to cope with their war experiences. By all means have a look at the film because I think it was made with the best of intentions but I’m afraid it did not succeed.