It has often been asked why America did nothing to stop the ethnic cleansing in Africa when we did get involved in stopping Hitler’s holocaust and in Milosevic’s mass murders.  Suggesting that it has a racist foundation and that America does not care about the African people, director Antoine Fuqua creates a film that only begins to explore this issue.

      Set within Nigeria, “Tears of the Sun” cries for a people who have turned on one another in tribal hatred.  As the royal family is killed by a military coup when the king attempts to establish a democracy, U.S. Special Forces are sent in to rescue the American embassy personnel.  As a part of this rescue, Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) and his men are sent to a remote mission to rescue an American doctor, a priest and two nuns.

      Dr. Lena Hendricks (Monica Bellucci) is an American by marriage and joined her husband in attempting to treat the sick and wounded in the Christian mission.  As the rebels gain power and are moving throughout the country killing those of the other tribe, her life is increasingly in danger.  But when Lt. Waters attempts to convince the four to leave, the priest and two nuns choose to stay with the people in their church, knowing they will die.  Dr. Hendricks agrees to leave, but only if Lt. Waters will take about 70 refugees of the war with them. 

      This establishes the moral issue around which the film revolves.  Should American troops be used to protect people who are being killed by their own government or military?  Should we only protect Americans and leave the rest of humanity to deal with their own problems?

      When U.S. Naval command rejects the request, Lt. Waters decides to deceive Dr. Hendricks in order to get her to the extraction point seven miles away.  As they are leaving, the priest says to her “Go with God,” to which Lt. Waters mutters to himself, “God has left Africa.”

      The film challenges this theological pronouncement as the humanity of the refugees softens the hearts of the lieutenant and his men.  The truth that every human being is a child of God and in need of saving is brought home to Lt. Waters as they trek through the forests to Cameroon and safety.

      Coming upon a mountain village that is being raped and pillaged by the rebel forces, Lt. Waters rejects his orders of non-engagement and attacks the rebel soldiers.  The refugees and Dr. Hendricks applaud this decision, forcing Lt. Waters into a state of self-evaluation.  Realizing that the humanity of these people overrides the orders of his military superiors, he decides to join his life with theirs.   Giving his men the choice as well, their compassion costs him and his men dearly.

      Due to the importance of one of the refugees, the rebels pursue the group in force and a final battle is waged within yards of freedom.   This symbolic Armageddon reinforces the truth that ending the evil of ethnic hatred is going to require a response of massive courage and strength. That it cannot come only from the military is a message we have not yet come to understand.



  1. Do you believe we should get involved in the internal affairs of other nations if their own governments are murdering ethnic minorities?  Should we use military forces?  Should we go to war to stop mass murders?
  2. What do you believe it will take for all human beings to realize that we are all of the same family?  Why is it so easy to experience jealousy, envy and hatred toward those who are different?
  3. In the African tribal wars, the two tribes are identified primarily by their height.  To hate someone who is taller or shorter than us is representative of the propensity we have for hatred.  What do you believe will change the hearts of people to love one another?
  4. When Jesus said to “love your enemies,” how does that apply to a situation such as this?  The priest and the two nuns chose death rather than fighting against the rebels.  Is that the only choice for a Christian?  When is the use of force justified?  Do you agree with Dr. Hendricks that Lt. Waters was right in killing the soldiers who were ravaging the village? 
Posted on June 1, 2011 and filed under 3 STARS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING.