14 September 2018

Congo-Kinshasa: Film On Rape Victims' Recovery Shows Unseen Side of Congo War

Photo: The Lutheran World Federation/Fliker
Dr Denis Mukwege, fondateur de l'Hôpital Panzi à Bukavu (RDC)

Dakar — Rape has been widely documented as a weapon of war in eastern Congo

A new film on Netflix aims to make eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's brutal conflict feel personal as it follows rape victims' "awe-inspiring" path to recovery, said director Madeleine Gavin.

"City of Joy", released last week, is about a centre of the same name where survivors of sexual violence go to learn skills and move past their trauma.

The film includes intense sequences of women telling each other about their rapes as well as scenes of them laughing and celebrating in the yards and classrooms of the brick compound, in the city of Bukavu.

"What was amazing was that there was this kind of resilience, this palpable desire to live after what they had been through," said Gavin from her home in New York.

"For me that was awe-inspiring," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Rape has been widely documented as a weapon of war in eastern Congo, which remains largely controlled by militia groups since the end of a 1998-2003 war in which foreign armies and rebels vied for control over mineral resources.

In the film, characters explain how fighters often rape women in front of their families when they attack, causing victims' husbands to abandon them and the women to live in shame.

"There's a lot of people in these villages who are living with their story and never expressing it to anyone," Gavin said.

City of Joy was opened in 2011 by Nobel prize-nominated gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, Congolese activist Christine Schuler Deschryver and American playwright Eve Ensler, best known for her play The Vagina Monologues.

Since then, over 1,100 women have passed through.

Part of the women's joy comes from learning that they have rights and that it's okay to be outraged, Gavin said.

"They really are now beginning to change the culture in these small villages from the inside out, because they're going back and they're teaching other girls the same things."

Gavin, a first-time director, said she wants the film to draw attention to a conflict that much of the world has ignored.

"I hope people will start to care about the women of Congo, and I think they will."

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change.

More on This

Militiamen Accused of Mass Rape of Young Girls

Some of the girls were infants, as young as eight months, and none of the victims was older than 12. The fight for… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2018 Thomson Reuters Foundation. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 600 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.