“We had a good life, there was no terror or war,” says Fatima Adam, a Boko Haram abductee who escaped after five years. She represents the core message of this documentary: a generation of young boys and girls is being lost to the terror of Boko Haram through abduction, displacement, and recruitment into the sect.
Nigeria’s Lost Generation, directed by Charlie Luckock, is an introspective documentary rich in the psychoanalysis of a sect that operates outside the confinements of sanity. A huge portion of the film focuses on Boko Haram’s most shocking atrocity: the kidnapping of over 200 girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok in April 2014, an event that shook the world and evoked global backlash.
The brazenness of the abduction still surprises Nigerians that some doubt it truly happened. The film shows the abduction’s instantaneous and long-lasting effects: schools were shut down across the state and four years after, many kids have not returned because of fear.
Adam was captured from her home after a terror attack (she isn’t one of the Chibok girls), but she represents their struggle. She was forced into marriage and asked to remarry after the man died. She refused. Instead, she asked to go to Maiduguri as a suicide bomber alongside some other girls. But Adam had no intention of triggering the bomb, this was her chance to escape. She did get away, but the other girls weren’t so lucky—their bombs went off or they were gunned down.
We had a good life, there was no terror or war
Nigeria’s Lost Generation starts with an origin story of Boko Haram; the early beginnings with its founder Muhammed Yusuf, an Islamic scholar who preached against western education, and his death: the moment that pushed the sect into terrorism. The film documents the group’s violent actions and the catastrophic impacts through accounts from of an abductee, Fatima; relentless activist Bukki Shonibare; a repented insurgent member whose identity is hidden for safety reasons; Islamic leader Imam Khalid; and an officer of the rehabilitation program in Maiduguri, Ismail Alfa Abdulrahim.This is a brilliant decision by Luckock because the viewer sees the Boko Haram quagmire from different angles and has a renewed empathy especially for members who coerced into joining. The whole argument on integrating repentant members takes a different dimension.
Each of the accounts is from people who have experienced Boko Haram differently, and together they gave an encompassing account of the reach of the sect’s terror. The one thing they have in common is to see the insurgency end. And that hope replaces the film’s gloomy atmosphere in its final minutes. We see Fatima smiling with her new husband. She has been reintegrated back into society and welcomed by her family. It echoes the need for us to be more welcoming of the sect’s victims who were abducted and brainwashed into joining.
Documentaries of this nature can be loud with explosions and crying footage, but Luckock keeps things simple, delving, instead, into Boko Haram’s psyche through the eyes of those that have encountered them. But even in its most cathartic part, Nigeria’s Lost Generation never strikes an emotional chord—and it is not clear if this is from a weakness of the film or from over familiarization with terror.