HotDocs13: Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children (2013)

Fight Like Soldiers 1 Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire is perhaps the most famous individual associated with the Rwandan genocide. As UN commander during the 1994 incident, Dallaire is a figure haunted by his inability to prevent the genocide and by the world’s disinterest in the suffering of the African nation. Nowadays, Dallaire is a retired General and newly-appointed Senator. He has made it his humanitarian mission to combat the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa and around the world. Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children follows his travels to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in an effort to learn the details about child soldiers and UN initiatives to save these children.

Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children is a documentary suited to national television, where it will educate the average person on the subject of child soldiers and perhaps spur into action the more conscientious of viewers. In the film, Dallaire travels around Rwanda and the Congo, talking to former child soldiers and UN workers about the possibility of discouraging the recruitment of child soldiers in the first place. Surprisingly, the UN workers are less than optimistic. They believe Dallaire is well-meaning, but naïve, and that only by eliminating the militias themselves will the recruitment of child soldiers be eliminated.

The documentary is expertly made and presents what seems like an authentic feel for the African continent. But it also occasionally drifts into generalities about the experience of the child soldier. Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children will do a good job of persuading people that the plight of the child soldier is a hard one to ignore, but imagine how undeniable and powerful the film would have been if it had included raw footage of child soldiers in their militias, going about their daily duties.

This isn’t to say I wish Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children were full of gruesome war footage. But the film often lacks specifics. It’s effective for a broad audience and Dallaire is a fascinating figure, but it rarely digs deep into the experiences of the people it hopes to save.

Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children (2013)

Directed by Patrick Reed.

7 out of 10