Makers defend Eritrea child soldier film in Berlin

Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:28am EST
 
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By Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters) - Just before filming started on "Heart of Fire," most of the cast quit out of fear. Since completion, the movie has been under attack, its lead actress is seeking asylum in Europe, but the makers are unrepentant.

The movie by Italian director Luigi Falorni about a young girl's experience as a child soldier in Eritrea has been criticized for distorting history, but after a press screening in Berlin on Thursday he said the work had been misunderstood.

Critics say Eritrean forces did not use child soldiers in their 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia, but Falorni said his movie was a work of fiction and the issue of child soldiers was not at the heart of his film.

"Today in 2008, we have an image of child soldiers which is very fixed," he told a news conference at the Berlin Film Festival. "I don't want to equate Eritrea with Uganda or Sierra Leone. This was not actually about politics for me.

"I wanted to make a film about hope, about a girl caught up in a war, what she sees, and what she learns. It wasn't my intention to make a film about children who are kidnapped ... and forced to eat the body parts of their enemies."

The movie was based on an autobiographical account by Eritrean author Senait Mehari -- who has been attacked herself for misrepresenting the war -- but Falorni and the producers said the book was just the inspiration for a fictional account.

Set in the early 1980s, the film charts the recruitment of Awet (played by Letekidan Micael) and her older sister into a militia battling a rival faction also opposed to Ethiopian occupation.

"TELEPHONE TERROR"   Continued...

 
<p>Italian director Luigi Falorni attends a news conference to present his film "Feuerherz" (Heart of Fire) running in the competition at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, February 14, 2008. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz</p>