VOICES OF VIOLENCE, cinema documentary, 90 min., Germany © 2016
Credits: Script and Direction: Claudia Schmid; Director of Photography: Claudia Schmid; Editor: Kawe Vakil; Sound: Heike Frielingsdorf, Bianka Schulze; Production Manager: Monika Mack, Rolf Bremenkamp; Producer: Birgit Schulz; A Bildersturm Filmproduktion production; World Sales: New Docs; ©Claudia Schmid / schmidfilm 2016
VOICES OF VIOLENCE - THE FILM
VOICES OF VIOLENCE is a documentary about the unimaginable violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo and about the political and social system that casts a blind eye on these atrocities. In a country where women are systematically exposed to the brutal practice of rape as a weapon of war, Claudia Schmid gives unknown women a voice and reveals how the structures of violence work in all their facets. The film-maker spent several months travelling through the Democratic Republic of Congo, meeting women in the most remote villages of the rebel territories and winning their trust. In the course of long, intense talks, the women disclose their traumatic experiences for the very first time. They recount how they were attacked, abducted and abused, how they were able to escape from the rebel camps and why their lives continued to feel like hell, even after returning home to their villages. Ostracised by their own village community, rejected by their husbands. The more intense the interview situation with the film-maker became, the more drastic the women rendered the violence they were exposed to.
Congolese women are very strong narrators who are able to find expressive words and gestures for the pain they experienced. They spontaneously revisit and re-enact certain situations. The film condenses the stories of violence told by different women from one village to a polyphonic fugue of different voices thereby - in its various escalations - determining the dramatic structure of the film. In order to illustrate the very complexity of the structure underlying the violence, Claudia Schmid also asks family members about their experiences and perspectives and talks to them about their shame and the discrimination against them by the village community. Since sexual violence is a taboo topic in Congo, families hardly ever talk about their traumatic experiences.
In the course of the film, Claudia Schmid deeply immerses herself into the destructive forces by also asking Congolese men in the streets about their notion of rights and obligations of both sexes. They unabashedly talk about beating up their wives in case they do not obey them. They hold the view that girls, of course, should not be allowed to attend school in order to prevent them from becoming too independent and that a woman should not own any property. When the husband leaves his wife, she has to live in the street. That’s just the way it is. Thus the belligerent violence of the rebels is linked to the everyday violence of Congolese men rendering the situation of the women even more hopeless. In this manner the film progressively reflects a microcosm of the systematic destruction of an entire people. Solely due to the strength of the protagonists who refused to give up and now raise their voices because they want the world to hear about their suffering and their perpetrators to be punished, this small-a-world is split open. And during these very moments the camera follows the women’s eyes, their movements, also their dancing and singing - away from their confinement. VOICES OF VIOLENCE represents a shocking and touching microcosm of sexual compulsiveness and violence, power and powerlessness, unconsciousness and the captive nature of tradition.