The war is over, a trial begins
“One of the most viscerally compelling documentaries of the year, it will leave you haunted.”
— Mary Anderson Casavant, Filmmaker Magazine
Film Synopsis

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.

Director’s Statement
Rebecca Richman Cohen

In the summer of 2006 I sat behind bulletproof glass in the observer gallery of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the world's first international war crimes "hybrid tribunal," created jointly by the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone. At the time I was working not as a filmmaker, but as a law student and legal intern for a defense team. Though I was assigned to work on the case of the AFRC-accused, Alex Tamba Brima, I found myself drawn to observe the trial of the leader of a different warring faction.

From my seat in the gallery of the RUF-accused trial, I first observed Issa Sesay, a former rebel leader accused of crimes against humanity and a key player in the peace negotiations – and I was fascinated by the range of roles that one man could assume amidst the intensity of such a brutal conflict. I became convinced that the story of his trial needed to reach a larger audience. Combining my legal experience in criminal defense with my background as a filmmaker, I realized that a documentary film could communicate the complexities of Sesay's rise and fall from power.

In 2012 the Special Court for Sierra Leone prepares to be the first major war crimes tribunal to conclude its cases since the Trials at Nuremberg more than sixty years ago. This landmark moment in international criminal justice is a timely call for introspection, dialogue, and critical analysis. I hope WAR DON DON offers an insider's view about the complex moral, political, and legal questions that issue from rebuilding lawless and war torn nations - and will inspire thoughtful debate about the future of international criminal justice.