Interview with Lisa Jackson, Director of The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo

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Lisa Jackson talks about her documentary, The Greatest Silence, which reveals the stories of millions of girls and women in the Congo who have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated, and tortured. Click here to learn more about The Greatest Silence and to view clips of the movie.

Q: Did you have trouble getting the women to open up to you about their experiences?

LJ: Actually, the women were eager to talk to me, especially after I told them of my own experience with sexual violence. They seemed grateful that someone would listen, validate their experience, and not judge them.

Q: You talk about your own experience of being the victim of gang rape. Did making this film help you with your own process of dealing with this traumatic event from your past?

LJ: I’ve pretty much “dealt” with it, as far as that goes, and the process of making the film actually made me aware all over again how depressingly commonplace rape is and how one’s ability to “move on” can be so dependent on class and cultural context. I did move on, but most of the women I met in the DRC never will.

Q: Have you had the opportunity to show the film to any of these women? If so, what was their reaction?

LJ: Amnesty gave me a grant to make a short, all-Swahili version of the film and I had the opportunity to show it to a group of women at Panzi Hospital last May. The women were spellbound watching it (I have video of the screening) and when asked afterward for their reaction, it was universally positive. Several women said that the film taught them that getting raped was not their fault and that their husbands should still love them and stay with them despite what had happened. Several women said that the film was right, that in the Congo, the women do all the work and the suffering. Some made the connection between the violence and the exploitation of Congo’s natural resources. And they gave me a standing ovation at the end! The full-length film will be shown on DRC TV in April and I’m sure the reactions will be vast and varied.

Q: What are you planning for your next project?

LJ: I’ve started to shoot a film about a group of displaced women living in the slums of Bogota Colombia. Colombia has been engulfed in a civil war for almost sixty years and the numbers of people displaced by violence is second after the Sudan. All these women are friends, from many parts of the country, and all have suffered from sexual and physical violence. I will follow them for the next year or so to see how their lives change.


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