“GUN RUNNERS”— War and Conflict and Running

“Gun Runners”

War and Conflict and Running

Amos Lassen

“Gun Runners” is about the complexities and personal struggles in war and conflict as well as an inspiring story of self-perseverance in attaining a greater sense of self. It is the story about two warriors from rural Kenya who traded their AK-47s for sneakers, allowing them to transfer their survival skills to something much more positive for everyone involved. Canadian filmmaker Anjali Nayar has worked on this film for ten years.

Robert Matanda and easygoing Julius Arile are lifelong friends from a village that is frequently caught between warring factions. Because of economic hardship, they have been forced to steal cattle and worse. However, when a government program offers amnesty, Arile makes the jump and later talks his more hesitant friend into leaving the bush.

Arile is talented and we follow him to New York City and to Prague to run marathons that always find him both excelling and coming up a little short. This is the primary concern of his extended family, including his extremely aged mother, who doesn’t hesitate to remind him of his failures. Some of this comes from his irresponsibility associated with his having a child with a neighborhood girl who committed suicide right after birth. Matanda’s skills are more political, and he has charm that he attaches to a local politician involved in an election filled with irregularities.

The film gives us a look at a part of the world thathas been deliberately hidden making it disappointing to learn that four of the principals featured here died after shooting ceased. What we really see is that change is risky. Director Anjali Nayar’s documentary shows us the mutability within changing one’s life. Nayar followed two ex-soldiers for 10 years and a lot can happen that period of time.

Arile and Matanda, were childhood friends born in rural Kenya who entered the profitable cattle rustling business. Nonetheless, they give up their valuable guns and cattle and enter a marathon-training program. They’re starting their lives over; something that most people in Kenya would be afraid to do.

Arile stays with the program and his potential catches the eye of a trainer. However his injuries and his dislike of other types of training along with the competition from other trainees get in his way. Matanda can’t compete in Arile and the other trainees’ levels and he leaves the program to take on a variety of roles within his community.

This film then adds layers to the idea of change and we wonder if change is effective if a person makes an effort to stay on his new path. The two men then become each other’s counterpoints, but the film makes sure not to take one man’s side over another. It’s difficult to explain the events that happen to these men and the film delicately cross cuts between them to check their progress in their endeavors.

Arile leaves his first wife to train and talking heads in the film also explain how he got into the cattle rustling business in the first place. Matanda, on the other hand, uses a substantial amount of money to run a political campaign and loses. He depends on the next harvest to pay for his kids’ private school tuition fees since that year’s crops didn’t come out as expected.

Director Nayar  empathizes with these men risking everything to make their ambitions and dreams come true. We see how running provides an outlet far greater than the violence and warfare into which the two entered as children. This an amiable tale of lives changed and dreams fulfilled

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