Hot Docs 2015: “Omo Child: The River and The Bush” (2015) ★★★★★


Would you kill an innocent, defenseless child just because he is born without the elders`s blessing? Would you harm a new born child, take him to the forest, and kill him with a rope just because his top teeth came in before his bottom teeth? Would you allow someone to do something bad to a child, just because his mother had him before she was married? In Ethiopia, in the Omo tribe, people who are stuck in ancient times, people who have barbaric and cruel traditions, kill every child who is identified as mingi. They take every child known as a ‘mingi child’ to the river and drown him there just as you would a useless thing, to be rid of. But one man, named Lale, who lived in the tribe many years ago, returns to the village as a well-educated young man who promises to end the mingi traditions…

It is very challenging and painful reviewing this incredibly powerful documentary film, which certainly will make even the indifferent viewer cry… Lale, as a grown man returns to his tribe, and sees how the people there chaotically run with a child somewhere, while a little child cries. He goes to his father for answers and he tells him a story that goes back many generations; of how mingi children are killed to protect their land from being cursed so that they may live peacefully. In Lale`s interview he explains to us who the mingi`s are: a girl mingi is a girl who is pregnant before marriage: women mingi,s have a child that is born without an elders blessing; teeth mingi means when the teeth on top have come in before the bottom teeth. This makes one wonder how many children they have murdered over the years?

While the film progresses, we hear an elder`s explanation as well. Believe it or not, they all appear to be very intelligent human beings in spite of their cruel and barbaric traditions. We also see how some parents willingly give away their child to be killed, as if they had no other choice. But, no, they did have two choices:  to live somewhere alone, without a chance of survival, or give their mingi child away to be killed, live their life and hope for the best. We also see how some of the people cry like children when they remember the moment they lost their child due to their beliefs, which turned out to actually be a myth.

Omo Child: The River and The Bush is an incredibly engaging documentary film from the beginning to the end, which will leave the entire auditorium in tears, and in the end, applaud everyone who dedicated themselves to change something that seemed to be impossible. The true hero in this story is Lale, who did not allow the prejudices and the power of the elders in his tribe to influence him. He continued fighting till the end, until he had the results he desired. The lesson we learn after watching this film is tremendous and must be followed by every human being. And, this is that there is always a possibility to change someone’s unfortunate and tragic fate into something good as long as there is at least one person who will step up to change things for the better. Having a person like Lale around gives me hope that one day we will have more like him… and maybe one day, the terrible things that are going on in the world will change, and it will be because of people like him…

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