The Redemption of General Butt Naked Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion

The Redemption of General Butt Naked Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion
To provide some context on the intriguing, yet potentially misleading, title, General Butt Naked was a savage, serial killing warlord during Liberia's protracted civil war, gleefully murdering people, slaughtering babies, raping women and recruiting children to fight by convincing them that bullets wouldn't kill. How he earned this name: doing all of this fully nude with an AK-47 or machete in hand.

Where the "redemption" comes in — whether taken literally or ironically — is that ten years later, Butt Naked has re-emerged as Christian evangelical preacher Joshua Milton Blahyi, animatedly spreading the word of God (loosely) while actively seeking forgiveness from the families and victims of his crimes.

Herein lays the impetus of The Redemption of General Butt Naked: Can a person change? Are there crimes too sinister for which to be redeemed? Are forgiveness and apology sincere or merely another mode of self-sustainment and self-motivation?

These aren't easy questions to answer and this isn't an easy documentary to watch, being simultaneously compelling and horrifying. Images of brutalized dead bodies and people shot in the streets provide some visual context of the extent of the crimes perpetrated, heightening the dramatic juxtaposition of Blahyi's brief apologies to blinded children and legless men, repeatedly saying, "I'm sorry," as though that means something.

Even though Anastasion and Strauss occasionally break their sustained, partial objectivity by focusing on the cellphone in Butt Naked's hand as he hugs a young man whose entire family he slaughtered, they do make an effort to let the audience impart their judgement on the subject. We get examples of men aided by Blahyi's drug rehabilitation efforts and commentary from victims suggesting some form of solace in the calm confrontation with their personal monster.

Regardless, it's difficult not to scoff and snicker when such a figure laments about not being able to move beyond his past or when other warlords make ridiculous arguments about not dwelling on the past. And if you ask me, people don't change; they just get better at covering up the things that others don't like about them. (Part 2 Pictures)