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Movie Review: Machine Gun Preacher

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By Sadhogopal Ram:

“If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, then they’ve won. We must not let them take our hearts.”

We are all fighting a war here. It doesn’t matter of what kind or with whom, but it is a war nevertheless. While everybody is busy fighting their own share of war, there is however a man in this very world of ours who is fighting a war which was never his own and ironically, even after fighting it for over a decade now, it still isn’t his — but he still fights.

There is no better way to put the kind of war he is fighting except how he himself did — another man’s war.

In 2011 came a movie called Machine Gun Preacher, an action biopic about Sam Childers played by Gerard Butler, a preacher-defender of African orphans. The film tells the story of Sam Childers, a former gang biker, and his staggeringly selfless efforts to save the children of South Sudan in collaboration with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) against the massacres of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The film is based on Childers’ memoir Another Man’s War, which it totally appears to be so, only if looked without dwelling deep into its details. But there’s more to it than what connects us to it. There’s another story, almost hidden, which runs parallel to the one being told; the one about Kony’s Army, Head of the LRA, killing and abducting children and forcing them to become part of the war. There’s a war of a different kind, a deeply intimate one, which Childers is constantly fighting, alongside the war which is not his. A war where although there are no bullets are being fired, where no one’s blood is being shed, where everything appears to be normal to the ignorant eyes, but where a tsunami is on the verge of destroying the very last bone of spirit.

Throughout the movie we see Childers, played exceptionally well by Gerard Butler, fighting with his own demons, conquering them one by one, but there still lives one demon which he is not only failing to fight with, but which is also growing stronger and deeper inside him, making him vulnerable to his own faith and slowly turning him into the very thing, the very idea he is fighting.

On the surface Machine Gun Preacher, is full of violence, where blood is being shed and lives are being lost; where the future of Africa is lost to the barrel of guns, and where its present lies scattered around, blasted away in bits and pieces. It’s a violence we are all sort of accustomed to, but Machine Gun Preacher’s real violence lies within its main protagonist Sam Childers, who slowly finds himself stranded with no faith in doing what he is doing as he fights the demon within which threatens to thwart the very good he has done. It was in that moment when The White Preacher (as he is fondly addressed by the people of Africa) is paid a visit by the child who had earlier saved him from being blown up. The silence before the kid speaks in that scene allows us to connect with both of them, making us painfully aware of Childers’ state of mind, enabling us to comprehend the words that are to be preached by the child.

Machine Gun Preacher is a film made with complete passion and heart. Written by Jason Keller and directed by Marc Forster, it’s a well told story with balance of both, love and war. Being a true account of a real-life hero working selflessly, fighting someone else’s war, Machine Gun Preacher must be applauded for its honest effort in trying to address an issue, the tales of which are only disturbing. The entire cast has done a fabulous job; each of the character has its own voice, which reaches to us in an attempt to pull us in.

Watch it for the reasons that there are still heroes out there, outside the fictional realm of comic books and superhero movies, who are trying a make a difference in this indifferent world, who are out there, saving the lives of innocents fighting who-knows-whose war; heroes who haven’t given up on hope, as they fight for a brighter dawn and better tomorrow.

And to those who might not see any point in the war that Sam Childers and hundreds like him are fighting, I will leave it on  Childers himself to answer —

For me to sit here and give all kinds of excuses to make it right — I can’t do it. But what I wanna ask everyone out there, everyone that has a child, everyone that has a brother or a sister, if your child or your family member was abducted today, if a madman came in, a terrorist came in, abducted your family member, or your child, and if I said to you, “I can bring your child home, does it matter how I bring him home?”

Watch it for what it has to offer — reality.


This post was originally published at the author’s blog, ARTH.

Sadhogopal Ram is a Poet… Writer… a Thinker… and a pigheaded Arthśāstri. He likes to rant on a wide variety of topics, Society and People being two of his all-time favourites.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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