The Mobile Cinema
Bringing Fighting the Silence back to Congo

Since September 2008, a Mobile Cinema circulates in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo as awareness raising project on sexual violence. The initiative is based on the documentary film ‘Fighting the Silence’ by IFPRODUCTIONS. Challenged by the wish to reach out to a vast public, the Mobile Cinema project has been developed in collaboration with WHYZE, Search for Common Ground and Amnesty International.

October 2008 1ste Mobile Cinema Screening in Congo
On the 25th of September 2008 the first public screening was organized in one of the busiest yet also poorest neighborhoods in Bukavu. The projection of an adapted version of Fighting the Silence began around sunset (18.00 hrs). A dense crowd of over 2,000 people had gathered to view the film. Moments of utter silence were altered by 'oohs', 'aahs' and laughter. Some quick polls showed that many people were very impressed by the film and found its educational character praiseworthy. The equipment we shipped to Congo also proved to be of very high quality as the images and sound were crystal clear.

Immediately after the projection of the film several local partner NGOs, together with the coordinator of Search for Common Ground, guided a debate of question and answer to clarify certain elements shown in the film. After all the energy that has been put into the conception and realization of the Mobile Cinema by IF and WHYZE we can look back at a successful and rewarding return to Congo of Fighting the Silence.

Request to show the film Fighting the Silence in Congo
When Congolese organisations expressed their wish to make the film Fighting the Silence available also in DR Congo, the idea of starting a Mobile Cinema that circulates in Eastern Congo and shows the film on a big screen came into being in the summer of 2007. Since then, a long process of reflection and preparation started because showing our film on sexual violence in the rural areas of Congo poses numerous challenges and perhaps even dangers. It demanded a thorough preparation characterised by the participation of Congolese themselves.

First of all, we felt it was a priority to show the film to all the key persons that have a speaking role in it in order to get their point of view and, more important get their approval on showing the film in Congo. Also, we wanted to involve local development organisations that work with sexual violence victims. After all, they know best their country, the context, the possible reactions of people and could help us to become informed on the "do’s" and "don’t’s".

Meeting with key persons from film
In May 2008 we went to Uvira and Baraka where we saw all key persons, such as the victims and their families, the General, the police and the local chiefs. By making use of a portable DVD player we watched the film together. This was a moving experience as they saw themselves for the first time in a film. Utter concentration was sometimes broken with bitter faces, affirmative nodding but also with smiles in small moments of joy.

Discussion and approval to use images
Before playing the film we explained briefly that we had come to see them the result of the filming that took place one year earlier. We did not yet speak about the Cinema. After having seen the film we had a long talk about their impressions, what they thought of it, how they found it to see themselves and to hear their own story. We were positively surprised to hear from most of them felt that this film could play an important role in educating others.

That was the moment we introduced our wish to use the film for the mobile Cinema project. We shared the objectives and information on how it would work in practice and we asked for their worries with regards to the initiative. Together we identified options for resolving potential negative consequences. At the end we asked them if they accepted that their images would be shown throughout the province. Without exception everyone agreed as they were convinced that that Cinema will help to educated on sexual violence. To formalise their approval everybody signed a document, which was written in Swahili and its content was discussed with them beforehand.

Validation workshop
In the week following the field visits a 4-day workshop was organised in Bukavu. Over 20 local organisations were invited to participate. The workshop aimed at validating the film’s images, collecting information on needed field-preparations and dividing tasks. The films and sub films were shown, followed by group work and useful discussions on how certain elements needed to be portrayed. We came up with a list of elements that needed to be kept, altered, removed or added. Also, we got valuable input with regards to the collaboration structure between the various partners involved, concrete information on the potential risks of public screenings and how to avoid them, necessary elements to share with the public before showing the film, additional themes that could be should be discussed after a screening and a list of villages and small towns that should be targeted. Once more, the support for and enthusiasm about the Cinema by the participants were heart-warming.

Facilitation guide
After the workshop the images of the films were re-edited in order to make them ‘context-proof’ but also to make them visually more attractive. Furthermore, a facilitation guide was produced that captured all the elements contributed by the participants. This guides will be made available to everyone that wants to assist in facilitating a screening in the field. It provides essential preparatory elements but also gives concrete ideas on what questions to pose after the screening or how to introduce a subject.

Participatory pilot phase
Altogether, the preparatory phase of the Mobile Cinema has been participative. But also during its execution phase the aim is to maximally involve local organisations when it comes to preparing and facilitating the screenings. The project will start with a one month pilot period after which the lessons learned will be evaluated and integrated in the remaining project period. Once more, the viewpoints of local organisations and also the public will be taken into consideration. In our opinion, the silence surrounding sexual violence can only be broken when people own the process of change. Preparatory phase of the Mobile Cinema

  • Visit to key persons speaking in film
  • Showing film and discussing on their impressions
  • Collecting written approval to use images for cinema
  • Organisation of validation workhop with local NGOs
  • Re-editing of the film images and writing of a facilitation guide
  • One month pilot phase to learn lessons and improve the project

IF Productions
© if productions, amsterdam, the netherlands