In light of the current “#OscarsSoWhite” upheaval, I thought it would be appropriate to bring your attention to this extraordinary film with NO WHITE PEOPLE IN IT! “Beasts of No Nation” is a story of survival, perseverance and hope, those mythical concepts that drive our lives, similar on many levels to the story in “The Revenant.” The film was shot entirely in Ghana, yet could have taken place in any number of locations in Africa that are presently torn apart by political turmoil.

In “The Revenant,” Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of the survivor. In “Beasts of No Nation,” the survivor role is portrayed by Abraham Attah, with similar intensity.  However, Attah is a pre-teen Ghanaian boy with very little education and no film experience, who was working as a street vendor when discovered by director Cary Joji Fukunaga. When you see Attah’s performance, you realize that he is naturally gifted with a splendid sense of imagination. He stood out from about 30 kids that Fukunaga had gathered to read for the role. Many parts of this film are difficult to watch, as it depicts the upheaval and horrors that are happening now in Africa. However a current of hope runs through it.

The movie was written and directed by Fukunaga (he’s not “white” either – his father was born in a Japanese-American internment camp in WWII). Fukunaga also did all the cinematography himself. He gained industry recognition directing the first season of the acclaimed TV series “True Detective.” Fukunaga had first become interested in the plight of African child soldiers while in college. He began research on the topic in 1999, traveled to Sierra Leone in 2003, and a few years later discovered Uzodinma Iweala’s novel, on which this film is based.  He held fast to his dream of making the movie, against great odds. The film was shot in 35 days in intense jungle heat, with a single camera. Idris Elba gives an excellent performance as the commandant who recruits lost and orphaned boys into his ragtag group of guerrilla fighters.

The result is a film horrific and beautiful at the same time. It’s exquisitely shot and edited. The war is seen always from the child’s (Attah’s) eyes. In one sequence, after he is forced to commit a terrible act, the colors of the surrounding environment fade and then take on garish hues as he tries to process the realization of what has just transpired.

Netflix took a big risk in releasing this film to a few theatres and at the same time on their streaming service. In the first two weeks over 3 million viewers watched it. Technically the film has been successful. It was screened at the Venice Film Festival earlier in 2015, where it received five nominations. Attah won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Actor, and Fukunaga won for Best Director.  Note that once the shoot was finished the filmmakers enrolled Attah into a boarding school in Ghana. Now, “Beasts of No Nation” is under consideration for more awards and well deserving of them. Watch “Beasts of No Nation” on Netflix and be enlightened.

Not Rated; Runtime: 137 Minutes; Limited Release Oct. 16/ streaming on Netflix globally

Awards Watch:

Golden Globes – 1 nomination, SAG Awards – 2 nominations, Independent Spirit Awards – 5 nominations including Best Feature

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left.  It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people.  She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kwboole@gmail.com. 

For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.