The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo

Director: Lisa F. Jackson

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


Women’s bodies have always been a wartime battleground. But on the eastern borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where civil war has left four million dead since 1998, rape is happening on a systemic, unimaginable scale. Documentarian Lisa Jackson brings her compassionate camera into the eye of the storm to help break the silence surrounding the sexual torture of hundreds of thousands of women.

Jackson’s frank conversations with activists, doctors, peacekeepers, and the rapists themselves paint a sordid picture where rape is a key destabilizing method in a corrupt cycle involving illegal profiteering from coltan (the ore used in cell phones and laptops), which in turn funds militia groups. Compound this with ingrained beliefs in male superiority, and the fact that the sex-crimes police force is literally one woman, and you have the makings of catastrophe. Jackson’s meetings with rape victims produce wrenching testimonies of unthinkable mutilation and shaming. Yet amidst dehumanization, the women impossibly exhibit courage and grace and create support systems.

As Jackson shares her own gang-rape story, we’re potently reminded that in America we’re in no position to point fingers. The monstrous escalation of rape in the Congo doesn't exist in a vacuum; around the world, human beings perpetrate new heights of barbarity—against the planet and themselves. As a Congolese police woman puts it, “He who rapes a woman rapes an entire nation.”

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards


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