Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Daddy and the Warlord’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Daddy and the Warlord’

During the Liberian Civil War, Clarice Gargard and her siblings moved to the Netherlands. Years later, she returns to her country. Her reunion with her father Martin means that she might ask him some questions. Some of these questions are innocuous, like her age, which he gets wrong. But eventually, she asks harder questions, like what he did during the war.

Clarice Gargard co-directs Daddy and the Warlord. It’s a documentary that, for its faults, acknowledges that this story is bigger than her and her father. She makes room for some segments showing other Liberians who was on the wrong side of Charles Taylor’s war crimes. These citizens do voice overs, remembering the rebels’ guns ravaging their peaceful homes.

This movie, clocking in at 50 minutes, follow up these segments by showing a fractured Liberia. It shows citizens in shantytowns trying to live their lives years after the social unrest. It also lets us hear news radio discussing a trial that eventually found Martin not guilty of war crimes. Gargard finds her and her father’s true story in frustrating pieces.

It’s in these scenes, ones showing how Liberia is now, that hinder this film from being good. These scenes seem like filler, distracting itelf from Gargard’s journey to find out the truth. The doc is running low on time as it is. Theses scenes show a lax citizenry under the grip of poverty. And there’s something unintentionally exploitative in these scenes.

There’s also something bothersome about how Gargard shoots the scenes where she tries to discover facts about her father. She uses different colors of light and sometimes blurs the picture when she talks to other reporters. She’s trying to depict the subject matter with an artistic flair. I normally welcome such attempts but it seems unnecessary in this case.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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