Pray the Devil Back to Hell premiered Thursday night at the Tribeca Film Festival with red carpet notables such as Edie Falco, Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Rosie O'Donnell, Eric Jong, and Russell Simmons.
The documentary by Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker is the extraordinary story of a small band of Liberian women who -- armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions (and a threat to withhold sex) -- came together in the midst of a bloody civil war, took on the warlords, and brought peace to their shattered country.
As the rebel noose tightened upon Monrovia, and peace talks faced collapse, the women of Liberia -- Christian and Muslims united -- formed a thin but unshakable white line between the opposing forces, and successfully demanded an end to the fighting. In one remarkable scene, the women barricaded the site of stalled peace talks in Ghana, and announced they would not move until a deal was done. Faced with eviction, they invoked the most powerful weapon in their arsenal -- threatening to remove their clothes. It worked.
This film is a reminder that women are the not-so-secret-secret to changing the world. This isn't just true in Africa; it is true here at home. American women make 83% of the consumer decisions, they volunteer more than men, they give to more non-profits and they are 59% of primary election voters.
The women of Liberia are living proof that morale courage and non-violent resistance can succeed, even where the best efforts of traditional diplomacy have failed. Their demonstrations culminated in the exile of dictator Charles Taylor and the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female head of state -- and mark the vanguard of a new wave of women taking control of their political destiny around the world.
Whether we elect the first African-American president of the first woman president, American women -- through their electoral heft -- have the power to change the world. Taking cues from our Liberian sisters, perhaps we should also consider what sort of progressive change we could win if we held a sex strike -- universal health care, ending the war in Iraq, equal pay, quality education?
If you're looking to laugh, cry and leave inspired, then don't miss this remarkable Pray the Devil Back to Hell. In the midst of daily bad news about the violence in Iraq, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Tibet and elsewhere this film is a call to non-violent action for all of us whether it be through voting, peace protests or sex strikes.
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