Sékou Traoré’s 2015 feature film debut, L’oeil du cyclone (Eye of the Storm), imagines the fate of a former child soldier named Blackshouam (Fargass Assandé), now an adult being tried for his crimes in an unnamed nation. It is a valuable film on several levels, among them the conversations it will likely spark about the aftermath of traumatized childhood, memory and identity, coercion and agency, innocence and responsibility. Part courtroom drama, the film brings the problem of representation to the fore. Initially, Blackshouam appears to be a crazed, dangerous killer. He does not speak. His lawyer, Emma Tou (Maimouna N’Diaye), manages to coax him into conversing, but tries to prevent him from speaking in court in order to defend him more effectively, complicating what we mean by the “unspeakability” of child soldiering and trauma. Her decisions [End Page 320] about what must be emphasized or omitted from the case function as a running commentary on how innocence and guilt are constructed. Indeed, while Traoré devotes significant screen time to Blackshouam’s stories, the main focus is on Emma, the woman who agrees, after much hesitation, to represent him.
How, then, are childhood soldiering and its aftermath represented? Familiar visual images of child soldiers in Africa open and close the film: photographs of children with AK-47s accompany both the opening credits and the c ... Read Full Review