STARRING, WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Lisa F. Jackson
NR (Due to the graphic testimonies of rape, not recommended for kids)
"The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo" was the winner of the Eric Parker Social Justice Award during the recent Indianapolis International Film Festival.
Filmed on location in the Congo, "The Greatest Silence" breaks the silence about the systematic rape of tens of thousands of girls and women in the war-torn Congo. Director Lisa F. Jackson, herself a survivor of gang rape, offers a no-holds-barred documentary that excruciatingly details the testimonies of Congolese women and, yes, even some of the rapists themselves as she visits hospitals, small villages, churches and virtually anywhere else she can find a woman willing to share her story.
Living in a country where telling one's story is widely accepted and even rewarded, it's difficult to fathom the risks these women take in courageously sharing their experiences. While there's no denying the tragedy of rape here in the United States, in the Congo the tragedy is compounded by the rapists often being those sworn to serve and protect such as soldiers and UN Peacekeepers.
In the United States, rape is a crime that is punished. While our ways of dealing with rape are inherently flawed, nonetheless, we do as a nation deal with rape and work to prevent it. In a nation devastated by years of civil war, however, rape is seen as just another part of daily life and women are regularly and systematically raped, tortured and enslaved as a statement of absolute subservience to men.
Wisely, Jackson openly admits her own experiences with rape and that these experiences have fueled her own desire to make this film and to make a difference for Congolese girls and women. Generally, Jackson maintains a healthy boundary between her own experiences and that of the women she interviews, however, it seems almost inevitable that she does, occasionally, cross a line that feels unhealthy for herself and too "Oprah" in her identifying so strongly with the women.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Jackson goes face-to-face with some of the rapists themselves...heavily armed soldiers who feel that raping women is their right as a reward for serving in the jungles of their nation. It is these interviews that are most disturbing, yet it is also these interviews where Jackson appears weakest as an interview. While she was understandably cautious, these particular interviews felt less natural and more intentional than the more authentic interviews with survivors.
Acting largely as her own crew, Jackson's camera work is impressive throughout the pic.
Having recently aired on HBO, "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo" should have solid home video prospects despite its grim topic and graphic nature.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic