Shot in the war zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this documentary feature explores the shocking plight of women and girls caught in the sexual crossfire as this giant African nation enters its second decade of internal conflict. Since 1998, a brutal war has ravaged the DRC, killing over 4 million people. Over the same time, tens of thousands of women and girls have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers - both from foreign militias and the Congolese army that is supposed to protect them. Emmy«-winning filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson, herself a survivor of gang rape, travels deep inside the DRC to understand what is happening and why. Her resultant film features interviews with survivors, activists, peacekeepers, physicians and, most chillingly, two groups of rapists who are soldiers of the Congolese Army. Above all, it highlights first-person accounts of dozens of rape survivors, who recount their stories with pulverizing honesty and immediacy. Heart-wrenching in its portrayal of the grotesque realities of life in Congo, the film also provides inspiring examples of resiliency, courage and grace, while serving as a call to action for anyone with a conscience.
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo is a shocking exposÚ of a decade-old epidemic of kidnapping, rape and torture of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Often carried out with impunity by gangs of armed militias, these atrocities leave survivors traumatized and isolated - shunned by society and their families, and suffering lifelong health effects, including HIV.
But perhaps the greatest tragedy, and danger, is that victims almost all remain silent about what they have suffered, too afraid and ashamed to speak out. As a result, the world is largely ignorant of their horrific plight and of the political conditions that allow it to continue.
Encompassing interviews with victims young and old, self-confessed rapists, activists, U.N. Peacekeepers, and woefully under-funded local law-enforcement officials, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo documents Lisa F. Jackson's journeys to the war zones of eastern Congo to find survivors willing to bear witness to their experiences and break that silence. It is a film at once political and profoundly personal for Jackson, who was gang-raped by three men in Washington, D.C. at age 25. As evidence of her commitment to the film and the stories of these women, Jackson traveled alone to the DRC and performed all production functions (producer, director, DP, sound) while there.
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo challenges audiences to wonder what dark forces are at work in a world that has tolerated such atrocities without offering victims either solace or justice. Greed seems to be one factor; criminal groups appear to be fanning the flames of civil war to perpetuate instability in the region while they plunder eastern Congo's natural riches of diamonds, gold and coltan (a metal used in cellphones and laptops). As many of the interviewees attest, systematic rape is an effective way to destroy the fabric of society. Yet those in power, as well as powerful nations like the U.S., are doing little to prevent this outrage. "Is there something about sexual violence that makes us all turn away?" asks Jackson. "In what inhuman context does rape become intentional, programmatic, a weapon of choice? Where are the voices of the women themselves? If they tell their stories, will others listen?"
Lisa F. Jackson has been involved in documentary filmmaking for over 30 years. Her work has earned her numerous accolades including two Emmy« Awards (for Jackson Pollock: Portrait, Through Madness and The Secret Life of Barbie) and four CINE Golden Eagles. Among her HBO credits: Life Afterlife, Addicted, and Why Am I Gay?
Credits: Producer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor: Lisa F. Jackson; Associate Producer: Alexandra Lescaze; Additional Editing: Lisa Shreve; Music: Bernard Buleri Kalume. For The Fledgling Fund: Executive Producer: Diana Barrett. For HBO: Consulting Editor: Geof Bartz, A.C.E.; Supervising Producer: Nancy Abraham; Executive Producer: Sheila Nevins.