By Katharina VON SCHROEDER, Florian SCHEWE


Documentary - Completed 2014

& Awards

29th DOK.fest – Munich International Film Festival 2014
29th DOK.fest – Munich International Film Festival 2014
29th DOK.fest – Munich International Film Festival 2014
    • Year of production
    • 2014
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • Duration
    • 93 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Katharina VON SCHROEDER, Florian SCHEWE
    • Synopsis
    • The civil wars between the predominantly Arab Muslim north and the African Christian south of Sudan raged for decades. It was only in 2005 that a peace agreement was finally signed that allowed Southern Sudan to vote on its independence. With a majority of 99%, the Republic of South Sudan was declared an independent state in July 2011. The atmosphere was euphoric, and the country’s people were full of hope for a better, self-determined future.

      The documentary film WE WERE REBELS tells the story of Agel, a former child soldier who returns home to help build South Sudan – the youngest country in the world. Agel becomes captain of South Sudan’s first national basketball team, hoping that sporting success will help his people regain the sense of self-dignity that they lost during the years of war. Over 2.5 million people died in the conflict, and a large part of the population fled the country. Agel himself lost almost all his male relatives, including his father and two of his brothers. He and his mother fled to Ethiopia where he trained in a military camp. At just twelve years old he went off to war, armed with an AK-47. Later he managed to flee via Kenya to Australia, where he was able to complete school and continue his education.

      Agel sees himself as one of the lucky ones for having had this opportunity, and wants to use his knowledge to help develop his homeland. But this is no easy task: South Sudan is still flooded with armaments and the country’s infrastructure was never really developed – there are barely any proper roads, schools or hospitals. In addition, the top-ranking politicians are all former generals and still militaristic in their outlook. Even in the country’s first international basketball game against Uganda, conflicts soon emerge over (game) tactics and hierarchies. But Agel remains optimistic, motivating the team to work harder. “These problems don’t just arise in sport – they are evident across the whole country,” he says. “We must have the strength to keep on fighting until something changes.”

      Following an injury, Agel’s sporting career comes to an abrupt end. He starts managing an NGO that drills drinking water wells in some of the country’s most remote areas that are still affected by war. With unwavering faith and a great deal of humor, Agel faces the obstacles of everyday life – from unhygienic food to broken roads that even allterrain vehicles cannot navigate. When his two-year-old daughter falls ill with malaria, he firmly believes that she can overcome the illness.