Two child soldiers fight to keep their friendship alive in the midst of the deadliest war in the world.
Heretier and I would go fight. Our friends would die but we would get back safely. Not even bullets could harm us. --Mwisha
In DR Congo, conflict surrounding $24 trillion dollars worth of natural resources has claimed up to 6 million lives, making the region one of the most dangerous in the world. “Not Even Bullets” follows two best friends, Heretier and Mwisha, who are caught in the chaos of warring armed groups scrambling for power in the villages of eastern Congo. They meet as children in the Mayi Mayi, a local militia they join to defend their homes. Indoctrinated as Mayi-Mayi soldiers, they believe they possess superhuman powers and that bullets pass through them like water. After a UN sanctioned demobilisation process brings them out of the Mayi-Mayi at 14 years old, Heritier and Mwisha become “ex-child soldiers,” and return to their homes to face poverty and hunger. Full of anger and desperate for help, friendship is their only consolation. When a new wave of child recruitment and violence separates them, Mwisha goes missing. Will they ever see each other again?
Using footage shot over the course of four years, the filmmakers follow Heritier and Mwisha from their first chance encounter in an empty school house outside Sake through their struggle to survive into adulthood. “Not Even Bullets” includes interviews with Mwisha and Heretier as 14 year old former Mayi-Mayi child soldiers and witchdoctors; Heritier as a disillusioned 14 year old attempting to reintegrate into his community and drinking to numb his despair; Hereiter when his family decides to take him to a rehabilitation center for child soldiers; undercover footage from inside the FARDC and the Mayi-Mayi; interviews with Mwisha’s rebel commander; Mwisha’s poignant rescue from the FARDC and the emotional reunion between Heritier and Mwisha. The film integrates commentary from voices on all sides of the conflict and rare inside footage of this brutal war.
The film examines the reasons why Heritier and Mwisha fight and why the Congo wars continue. Children are utilized as a strategic weapon system; cheap and available, these operational forces fuel the armed groups desperate to control resources the world demands. While the Congo fights over these resources, the West insatiably consumes them. Although recent advocacy has led to Congo passing legislation attempting to prevent the use of children in armed groups, for Mwisha and Heritier, even after their episodes of fighting are finished, a whole new set of challenges await. Will they fight again? Can two boys who have carried out the worst forms of human violence change? Can friendship survive the onslaught of war? And is it even feasible much less possible for them and their generation to lead Congo to a better future?
This film is an invaluable insight into the deadliest war in the world where an urgent need for change matters globally. Through access to Mwisha and Heritier, viewers are granted an honest portrayal of the most exploitative type of warfare in history, the use of children in armed conflict, and how the friendship between two children could create a way out of war.