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War Don Don

by Rebecca Richman Cohen

Through the trial of a rebel leader in Sierra Leone, a nation faces its wartime past.  Now international justice is on trial for the world to see.

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In the heart of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, United Nations soldiers guard a heavily fortified building known as the “special court.”  Inside, Issa Sesay awaits his trial.  Prosecutors say Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of heinous crimes against humanity.  His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace to Sierra Leone.  With unprecedented access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and, from behind bars, Sesay himself, WAR DON DON puts international justice on trial for the world to see — finding that in some cases the past is not just painful, it is also opaque. 

NOMINATED FOR TWO EMMY AWARDS:  Outstanding Continuing Coverage Of A News Story (Long Form) and Outstanding Editing

quoteWar Don Don is a triumph of agenda-free nonfiction filmmaking... It's among the year's finest documentaries.
P. Hall
Video Librarian

quoteWar Don Don is the most compelling film about international justice since Judgment at Nuremberg. It's a great vehicle for teaching international criminal law and inspiring classroom debate.
Professor Michael P. Scharf, Director of the Frederick K. International Law Center, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

quoteOne of the most viscerally compelling documentaries of the year, it will leave you haunted.
Mary Anderson Casavant
Filmmaker Magazine

quoteFascinating and complex... a remarkably sophisticated examination of the machinery of justice.
The Independent Weekly, Raleigh, NC

quoteThis vivid film provides enough detail, nuance, and controversy to inform both experts and newcomers to the issues of international criminal justice—and wonderfully combines legal and political insight with compelling narrative and visual power.
Martha Minow, author, “Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence"

More Reviews


  • EMMY NOMINATION:  Outstanding Continuing Coverage Of A News Story (Long Form)

  • EMMY NOMINATION:  Outstanding Editing

  • US Broadcast, HBO Documentary Films (2010)

  • WINNER South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW), Special Jury Award (2010)

  • WINNER Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York, Cinereach Award (2010)

  • WINNER Independent Film Festival Boston, Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing (2010)

  • WINNER Taiwan International Documenty Festival, First Merit Prize (2010)

  • Opening Night CAMERA JUSTITIA, Amnesty International's Movies That Matter Festival (The Hague, 2010)

  • WINNER Festival International du Film des Droits de L’Homme, Best Film Award, Investigative Report Jury (Paris, 2011)

Resources to Download

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Table of Contents for Teaching Materials    

 • Questions for discussion
 • Brief timeline of the conflict
 • Articles by defense lawyers and prosecutors involved in Issa’s Sesay’s trial
 • Additional resources:  Sierra Leone  
 • Additional resources:  International organizations

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War Don Don

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