Sunday, May 04, 2008

Emmanuel Jal: From Child Soldier to Worldwide Rap Star

American rappers often detail the hardships of guns and drugs in the 'hood, but their stories pale in comparison to that of Emmanuel Jal. Jale grew up in southern Sudan (a country in the news for the genocide in Darfur), and was at one time a child soldier. When he and more than 350 children left on a boat to escape the fighting, the overloaded boat sank, and Jal was one of just 50 survivors.

The journey of Emmanuel Jal from child soldier to a rapper who now uses his words to help heal the wounds of war is movingly told in the film "War Child," which on Saturday won the Cadillac Award - Audience Choice Winner at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. Jal was present at some of the screenings of "War Child," and even rapped a cappella at the first screening, which was the film's North American premiere.

(The TFF has been consuming much of my time over the last week and a half, but I'll be making up for that by posting about some of the films, especially music-related ones, that were screened at the Festival.)

"War Child" director received $25,000 for winning the Cadillac Award. You can learn more about the film at its Web site,, and learn about the charity Jal has set up to fund education for children in Sudan.

Jal's music has been featured in movies including the documentary "God Grew Tired of Us" and the feature "Blood Diamond," as well as several episodes of the TV show "E.R."

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