My favorite stories are those where people face trials and challenges and the story shows how they face and (hopefully) overcome their trials. I like it even better when the story is true. Freetown is such a movie. (By the way, I’m giving this away at the bottom of the page, but keep reading first).
Freetown is the story of six Liberian missionaries in Monrovia who must flee the widespread violence of their native country for Freetown, Sierra Leone. The story opens with a beautiful baptismal scene in an African lake. And that beautiful peaceful scene contrasts sharply with a pair of missionaries hiding in their apartment, trying to avoid incoming rebel gunfire. As it becomes increasingly apparent that they will not be safe in Monrovia, the missionaries must make the impossibly difficult decision to leave. Compounding their challenges, one of the missionaries is a member of the Krahn tribe, the enemy of the rebel forces.
Local church member Phillip Abubakar (Henry Adofo) has a car and agrees to help them make the journey. So six elders and Abubakar cram themselves into his battered Toyota Corolla and begin their more than 200-mile journey to Freetown over unpaved roads with little fuel and even fewer supplies. During their journey they must not only pass through numerous rebel checkpoints, but they are being pursued by a group of rebel fighters led by a man who is determined to kill all Krahn.
While the movie has a fair amount of intensity as you would expect from such a story, there are occasional moments of humor as well. One of our favorite parts of the money was when the elders managed to acquire a six-pack of beer. My teenager asked why they kept the beer and didn’t just toss it out. It was a question that baffled me too, but it made me smile when we finally learned the answer.
Thankfully, the violence in the movie is implied. There is one particularly tense scene in which Elder Gaye (the Krahn missionary) and his companion are stopped along with other villagers by rebel forces who begin questioning each person as to their tribal identity. A number of the villagers are shot by the rebel forces, but it is off screen. I have seen that some reviewers feel it took away from the movie’s tension, but I was just fine with not having to actually watch someone being shot.
While the story is about a group of Mormon missionaries, this story of faith and perseverance will appeal to many faiths. This movie is not only an excellent opportunity to discuss faith in the face of challenge but also issues of hate, genocide, racism and other current issues.
I highly recommend Freetown for families with middle school and older children. Depending on your child some of it may be too intense for younger children.
In fact, I recommend this movie so much that I am teaming up with Deseret Book to give one lucky reader their own copy of Freetown. Just follow the steps below to enter the giveaway. This giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. MDT, Thursday August 20, 2015.