Birahima’s mother dies, he leaves
his native village in Cote d’Ivoire,
accompanied by sorcerer and cook
Yacouba, to search for his aunt
Mahan. Crossing the border into
Liberia, they are seized by rebels and
forced into military service. Birahima
becomes a child-soldier. Fighting
in a chaotic civil war alongside
many other boys, Birahima sees
death, torture, dismemberment and
madness but somehow manages to
retain his own sanity.
Since 1980, increasing tensions between freedmen and natives in Liberia have led to a civil war bringing the country to its knees. Many of these atrocities were perpetrated by child soldiers, a macabre whirlwind that has had a devastating impact on an entire generation of children traumatized by their own crimes. This is the terrible topic of Ahmadou Kourouma’s novel. The book immerses the reader in a terrifying conflict through the eyes of a kid named Birahima. It is a universal story tinged with dark humour. I wanted to make Kourouma’s novel into an animated film, both to show the terrible fate of child soldiers, and to transform this pacifist manifesto into a film that is both funny and dark. I grew up hearing tragicomic stories of my family about everyday life during the Lebanese civil war. In the book, I found the same epic stories of scoundrels. Child soldiers are often depicted as bloodthirsty killing machines. Here, they are simply human beings forced to adapt to survive.