Experiencing Interruptions?

No Place for a Rebel

Sixteen years after rebels abducted him as a child, Opono Opondo returns home to Uganda as an adult war commander. Now he has to re-adapt to civil society.

Opono grew up to become a war commander in the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony. Now, Opono must fight for acceptance back home, in a place where he doesn’t know the codes and conventions and where the neighbors fear him. The film shows Opono’s fight for his future, while struggling to come to terms with his past and to reconcile with his family.

While Opono pursues a new career as a carpenter - he opens a shop and designs business cards – he attempts to reconnect with the people closest to him: his brother, his uncle and his best friend who used to be in the LRA with him. A daytrip to visit his mom painfully exposes how the scars of war also continue to divide them.

One day Opono’s former comrade, LRA top commander Dominic Ongwen, is captured and taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Ongwen is charged with seventy counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Questions of accountability start to dominate Opono’s thoughts. Suddenly he gets an opportunity to join the Ugandan army. Opono has to decide whether he will once again pick up his arms, but this time to fight his former comrades.

  • Maartje Wegdam
    Jackie, a ruler in hand (18 min, student film)
  • Ariadne Asimakopoulos
  • Maartje Wegdam
    Jackie, a ruler in hand (18 min, student film)
  • Ariadne Asimakopoulos
  • Ilja Kok
  • Ariadne Asimakopoulos
  • Maartje Wegdam
    Jackie, a ruler in hand (18 min, student film)
  • Merel Notten
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0636624/ - 06/05 (nominated best editor Dutch Film Awards)
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Social Issue, Human rights, Drama, personal narrative, character driven
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 16 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 25, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    150,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Other
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Thessaloniki Film Festival
    March 3, 2018
    Greek premiere
    tbd (now in competition)
  • Movies that Matter International Film festival,
    The Hague
    March 26, 2017
    National/World Premiere
    Nomination Camera Justitia Award Competition
  • Nederlands Film Festival
    September 21, 2017
    Selection Golden Calf Award Competition
  • Justice Film Festival
    New York City
    United States
    October 8, 2017
    International Premiere
    Winner Best Feature Film
  • This Human World
    November 30, 2017
    Austrian Premiere
    Winner Best Feature (Up and Coming Competition)
  • Free Press Unlimited Awards Fest
    The Hague
    November 2, 2017
    Winner Report of the Year 2017
  • Africa World Documentary Film Festival, US
    Saint Louis, Missouri
    United States
    February 10, 2018
  • Africa World Documentary Film Festival, Barbados
    February 27, 2018
    Barbados Premiere
  • Africa World Documentary Film Festival, Nigeria

    February 27, 2018
    Nigerian premiere
  • Ethiopa International Film Festival
    Addis Abbaba
    December 27, 2017
    African premiere
  • Mooov International Film festival
    April 18, 2018
    Belgium Premiere
    tbd (in official competition)
Distribution Information
  • Mooov
    Country: Netherlands
    Rights: Theatrical
Director Biography - Maartje Wegdam, Ariadne Asimakopoulos

Maartje Wegdam (1982), director, cinematographer, completed the Documentary Media Studies program at The New School (NYC, 2010) as a Fulbright student. Upon returning to The Netherlands in 2011 she started working as director and cameraperson for documentary film. In 2014 she was a camerawoman for The Abominable Crime, which was awarded with the Amnesty International Human Rights Prize and winner at the Pink Film days in Amsterdam. Maartje previously studied News and Information and International Relations (MSc, 2006) at the University of Amsterdam and worked as a camera journalist for Dutch public broadcasting corporations.

Ariadne Asimakopoulos (1984), director, has a background in Conflict Studies and Human Rights (MA). In 2010 she conducted research in northern Uganda on reintegration and justice in the case of people who are both victim and perpetrators of violence. This research led the foundation for the film No Place for a Rebel. Moreover, she advocates on an international level for the participation of young people in peace and security issues and coordinates projects that aim to involve young people in peace building.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

We all know stories of child soldiers. But what happens after they return home? In a conflict we prefer to draw a line between victims and perpetrators so we can hold those who are responsible accountable. The reality however is often much more complex. This film, about a young man who balances the fine line between victim and perpetrator, explores what it is to be a survivor in this reality.

Making any film about (former) child soldiers is to enter a world of clichés. Presenting them either as the victims of brutal violence, or as the few brave survivors lucky to get a second chance, or as ruthless war machines wired to kill on command, reduces them to stereotypical concepts. It is untrue to their complex identities and does not help us to gain deeper understanding of what it means to survive systemic violence. Powerful recent films draw more nuanced picture, including last year's fiction feature Beasts of no Nation (Cary Fukunaga) and Jonathan Littel's heartfelt documentary Wrong Elements. Yet, the story of former rebels does not end with their return home. This unprecedented film explores a new chapter: their present-day reality.

No Place for a Rebel centers the uncomfortable quietness of the present instead of the past turmoil and violence. It poses questions rather than providing clear-cut answers. The film trusts on personal reflection and depth of the character to reveal the socio-political context he finds himself in. That makes for a strong character based film that questions the nature of human existence.

A hidden crisis after a crisis
Stability doesn't come with a peace agreement or ceasefire, but with rehabilitation and reconciliation of the victims of war, among whom those who fought. In Uganda, after a two decades lasting brutal war between Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan Government, the guns fell silent. Many of the remaining LRA members are returning home. However, former rebels lack job prospects. Pervasive trauma, stigma and a fear of future retaliation hinder them in their family and public lives.

Local experts also confirm that these former fighters are increasingly vulnerable to future mobilization by political or armed groups. The weakened social fabrics and underlying traumas of the people of Northern Uganda can form a realistic and yet overlooked threat to the stability in the region. No place for a Rebel exposes this 'hidden crisis after a crisis’. Through a very personal account, the documentary No Place for a Rebel addresses the universal human need for a sense of belonging and the possible consequences for those who lack a place that they can truly call 'home’.

Dilemma of justice
This film comes at a moment when for the first time a former child soldier, Dominic Ongwen, is being prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. Dominic Ongwen was abducted by the LRA as a child and grew to be a top commander. The trial against Ongwen started in January 2017. He is charged with seventy counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity; the same crimes of which he once was a victim.

The international community generally considers justice through prosecution by tribunals such as the ICC is considered an essential element for peace and reconciliation. However, there seems be a lack of space for discussion surrounding the dilemmas posed when prosecution former child soldiers who grew up to be adult war commanders. The film poses a difficult question: what does justice mean for whom in the case of these victim-perpetrators?

These questions apply to many other young people who grew up fighting in armed conflicts worldwide, for instance in Colombia, Afghanistan and Syria. Through this film we ask the question how we, as individuals, as a society and as the international community, can equip ourselves to acknowledge, act upon and do justice to the complex reality of victim-perpetrators.

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