The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) iscelebrating its second year with 65 films, of which 36 are Australian premieres.Kylie Boltin looks at the Australian premiere of Emmy Award winningproducer/director, Lisa F. Jackson’s The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo (USA2007, English/Swahili with English subtitles, 76 mins).
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18 Nov 2008 - 10:51 AM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2012 - 1:30 AM

The Greatest Silence has screened across the world to wide
acclaim and political attention, and it has won prizes at the Sundance Film
Festival (2008 Special Jury Prize for Documentaries), the Amnesty International
Film Festival (2007 Movies That Matter Distribution Award, where it screened as
a work-in-progress), the Rome Independent Film Festival (2008 Best Documentary).

Jackson
filmed and narrates her extraordinary film, which focuses on the catastrophe affecting
the Democratic Republic of Congo’s most vulnerable. The opening sequences are
comprised of the personal testimonies of Congolese women who are both victims
of rape and of the ongoing stigma attached. Interviews with 34 year-old Marie
Jeanne and 18 year-old, Immakilee are heartbreaking to hear, as is Jackson’s own experience
of rape in Washington D.C by three men who were never found.

Jackson
juxtaposes these intimate interviews with an overview of the politics and
history of the country. She interviews the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Faida
Mwamgilwa, representatives of Women’s Advocacy groups, the UN Peacekeeper Chief
of Staff, Eastern DRC Division - Colonel Roddy Winser, Medical Director of PanziHospital
- Dr. Denis Mukwege and Major Honorine Munyole of the National Police, amongst
others. Jackson’s
narration succinctly outlines the country’s history from Belgian colonisation
in the 1880s for gold, silver, diamonds and oil through to independence in
1960, the assassination of its first prime minister and dictatorship until 'in
1997, the new DCR began to sink into a bloody civil war and the raping began."
Jackson and her interviewees continue this trajectory into the present day,
with women’s advocate Christine Schuyler Deschryver stating, 'it started in
1999 — the bodies of the women became like the playground."

Jackson
asserts that the 'Rwandan paramilitaries have been the most brutal". She and
her interviewees, contend that it is the Interahamwe (a Hutu paramilitary
organization that was supported by the Hutu-led government before, during and
after the Rwandan Genocide), together with other militias, who 'maintain the
chaos necessary to loot Congo’s
resources. This is especially true of Coltan," Jackson’s narration continues. 'A mineral
used in all cell phones and laptop computers. The DRC has 80 percent of the
world’s reserves. It is estimated that a million dollars of Coltan is stolen
out of the country every day."

The result is an unflinching document of a shameful chain of
events that stems from the 'economies of the war,’ all the while affirming Jackson’s conviction that
the victims of rape must be heard, and those responsible held accountable. This
includes 'the 19 UN Peacekeepers implicated in rape and sexual exploitation,
exchanging milks and eggs for having sex with girls as young as ten".

Jackson
obtains comments from Congolese men that demonstrate frighteningly, the entrenched
mentality that allows such atrocities to occur. Her narration and collected
testimonials relate the overwhelming tragedy, pain and suffering experienced by
so many of Congo’s
women.

At the same time, the documentary exposes potential avenues
for hope and change in Congo
and what can be done by those internationally —The Greatest Silence is
accompanied by a website that lists opportunities for Activism & Outreach
that has resulted in policy changes to human rights initiative.


Melbourne: November 12 - 30

Canberra: November 20 – 22

Perth: November 28 – 29

Sydney: December 4 – 7

Brisbane: March 6
- 7 2009