The first thing that strikes you about Out of My Hand is the cinematography. Quite simply; it’s stunning.
The second thing that strikes you (okay, it struck me), was how intimately it captured the true essence of Liberia. Having spent some time in the country, I can testify that what you see on screen is essentially what you get when you go to Monrovia, the capital; the seriously lush landscape, the dense darkness that falls over the city at night-time, punctuated only by the sound of generators (affordable only for the very few), and the flickering light from the candles that light the roadside stalls and the bulleted buildings still carrying the scars of the civil war.
Out of my Hand is about Cisco, a plantation worker who takes part in a union strike against his employer, which essentially goes nowhere. The plantation workers spend their days playing football, hiding from their wives and generally doing nothing.
When his cousin comes to Liberia for a holiday, Cisco decides to leave with him and seek his fortunes in New York. While there, he runs into an acquaintance, a former child soldier, and the meeting threatens his livelihood and stay in the US, and also forces him to revisit the part that he played in the Liberian civil war.
The director, Takeshi Fukunaga, admits that he’d never been to Liberia before shooting the film. He also talks about his experience of shooting a film in Liberia in nuanced detail, and as someone who has spent some time in the country, I understood the challenges he faced; they are all too real to me.
Out of my Hands is one of those films that takes its time to tell its tale, which surprisingly, makes the viewer feel like they’re in a sumptuous film. In fact, one of my favourite scenes in the film is watching the camera zoom in to capture latex being emitted from a tree into a cup. Mesmerising and strangely powerful, evocative stuff, one that says a lot about latex and the role it has played in Liberia’s socio-economic history.
Despite its languorous pace, there are elements of surprise in the film. Like when the former child soldier confronts Cisco and we are forced to concede that perhaps he is not who we think he is. Much like the former child soldier, he is a man carrying the scars of his past and all too aware of its imprisoning power over his life.
Out of My Hand is available on Netflix.
Read Donari Braxton, co-screenwriter for Out of my Hand talk about the writing and making of the film in Liberia.