The Silent Army

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The Silent Army
Mgm White Light 2008 film poster.jpg
Original film poster
Wit Licht
Directed by Jean van de Velde
Produced by
  • Paul Brinks
  • Chris Brouwer
  • Richard Claus
Written by
  • Jean van de Velde (screenplay)
  • Sandra Nagtzaam (plotline)
Music by Nick Laird-Clowes
Cinematography Theo van de Sande
Distributed by Independent Films
Release date
  • December 11, 2008 (2008-12-11)
Running time
120 minutes
Country Netherlands
  • English
  • Swahili
  • Dutch
Budget €7 million[1]

The Silent Army is a recut, international version of the 2008 Dutch drama film Wit Licht (Dutch: Wit Licht meaning White Light)[2] directed by Jean van de Velde about the hardships of child soldiers in Africa. It marks the acting debut of singer Marco Borsato. On December 29, 2008 it was reported that, despite bad reviews, the film had received a gold certification. More than 100,000 people went to see the film in two weeks time.[3] In April 2009, it was announced that the film would be shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.[2]


Eduard Zuiderwijk (Marco Borsato) runs a restaurant in Africa. When his wife (Ricky Koole) suddenly dies, he is left to take care of his son Thomas (Siebe Schoneveld) on his own. When his son's best friend Abu (Andrew Kintu) is abducted by a rebel leader to be trained as a child soldier, Eduard goes in pursuit to save the boy and regain his son's respect.


The idea for the film originated with singer Marco Borsato, who is an ambassador for the non-profit organisation War Child Holland. After hearing stories from former child soldiers who had been through War Child Holland's programmes, Borsato became interested in initiating a film inspired by these stories. Together with his manager Paul Brinks, he decided that making a movie would be good for his career. Unfortunately, he found none of the scripts he was sent suitable because he couldn't connect to them. Eventually, a friend, Sandra Nagtzaam (Borsato's first manager) wrote a fitting story.[4] A lot of elements in the screenplay are based on true events. Borsato has been an ambassador for War Child Holland for almost ten years and child soldiers was a subject he was often confronted with and something that he connected with.[5] Paul and Marco asked Dutch film producer Chris Brouwer to produce the film. He brought the story to writer/director Jean van de Velde. Van de Velde wrote the screenplay and asked Borsato to take on the lead role.[6][7]

The film was recorded on location; first in Uganda, then in South Africa.[8]

After the movie had a big release in the Netherlands, French critic and movie director Pierre Rissient saw it and thought Wit Licht could do well internationally if it were recut drastically. Rissient cut out many Dutch scenes, took away the music, changed the ending and made the movie more suitable for arthouse audiences. This resulted in an invitation for the Un Certain Regard program at the Cannes Festival.

Actor Character
Marco Borsato Eduard Zuiderwijk
Thekla Reuten[9] Valerie
Ricky Koole Anna Zuiderwijk
Peter van den Begin Francois
Andrew Kintu[10] Abu
Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga[11] Obeke
Adrian Galley Ruud van Kalenberg
Sam Okelo Abu's Dad
Siebe Schoneveld[1] Thomas Zuiderwijk
Frederick Mpuuga commander

A majority of the film was shot in Port Saint Johns on the east of the Wild Coast. Its natural beauty and the abandoned airport on the top of a local mountain were the main reasons this location was chosen.[12] During the shoot over 1400 locals were enlisted as extras to aid the 150 cast and crew.[10] Early on during shooting in South Africa, a house which was used as a sleeping place by crew was attacked. Since then, extra security has been on the set.[13]

Shooting was also done in Uganda in an area where a war just ended and a peace treaty wasn't yet signed. Hundreds of people who experienced this war were extras. Borsato said: "The tension on their faces is real. We also filmed in refugee camps. That gives the film authenticity. It is suspenseful and touching, a real story."[5]

Related works[edit]

Borsato also released a single and an album and he performed in a series of concerts in Gelredome, all carrying the same name as the movie.[14] Although they carry the same name, the single and album are not a soundtrack to the film. The music is inspired by the emotions and themes of the movie instead.

See also[edit]

  • 24: Redemption, film with a similar theme.
  • Johnny Mad Dog, film with a similar theme.
  • Heart of Fire, a film directed by Luigi Falorni, also has a similar theme.


  1. ^ a b "Filmzoon Marco Borsato bekend". (in Dutch). April 11, 2008. Archived from the original on April 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  2. ^ a b "Wit Licht geselecteerd voor filmfestival Cannes". Parool (in Dutch). 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  3. ^ "Gouden film voor Wit Licht", Algemeen Dagblad; December 29, 2008.
  4. ^ Foreword photobook 'Wit Licht - The Making Of'.
  5. ^ a b Minnema, Mark (21 March 2008). "Borsato met Wit Licht de boer op". BN De Stem (in Dutch). Archived from the original on August 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  6. ^ Minnema, Mark (20 September 2008). "Borsato vol in het Wit licht". BN De Stem (in Dutch). Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  7. ^ van Ree, Annemart (December 5, 2008). "Marco Borsato vreest artistiek bloedbad". Algemeen Dagblad (in Dutch). Retrieved 2008-12-12. , interview.
  8. ^ Schamberger-Young, Christa (August–September 2008). "Christa Schamberger-Young — Independent Casting Director (archive)". Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  9. ^ "Thekla is overal thuis". CJP Magazine (in Dutch). October 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  10. ^ a b "Movies bringing life to sleepy town (Slideshow)". Daily Dispatch Online. May 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  11. ^ Nathalie (October 16, 2008). "Wit Licht - Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga - concert". (in Dutch). Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  12. ^ Marco Borsato in Afrika - weblog Martje Rijkens (met foto's van de set)
  13. ^ "Set Borsato-film overvallen". (in Dutch). May 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  14. ^ "Wit Licht in première in Amsterdam". (in Dutch). December 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 

External links[edit]