- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide


“The Greatest Silence” Film Response

By emily on February 6, 2013

I would like to discuss “The Greatest Silence” without echoing all of Dagan’s sentiments on the film; I too thought that the filmmaker, Lisa Jackson, had a personal focus that was unnecessary and distracting from the actual content she was attempting to portray.  It was difficult for me, because of Lisa Jackson’s bias and framing, to become as fully invested in the film as Dagan was; perhaps I have become too desensitized to violence in my four years as a PCon student, but the facts and horror that Lisa Jackson was attempting to display were nothing new to me.  I was certainly saddened and depressed by the facts on the ground, but my frustration at the way the film was made mediated empathy I felt for the victims.

In light of our course, I found the film’s portrayal of the Interhamwe forces (and not RPF) extremely limited and biased.  I do not doubt that Interhamwe forces committed mass atrocities in the Eastern Congo.  However, almost all of Lisa Jackson’s interviewees mentioned the Interhamwe as one of the sole perpetrators of the atrocities and rapes committed–this despite the fact that the two groups of “rapists” (in quotes not to deny their actions or criminality, rather to question Lisa Jackson’s singular portrayal of the groups of men as such) Jackson interviewed were all members of either the Congolese army or Congolese rebel groups.


Additionally, the film made no mention of any complicity of the RPF or M23 rebels, which I find just as suspect as a singular focus on the Interhamwe.  The aspects of the film that deal with Rwanda or Rwandan refugees only echoed the common, singular, Western view of the conflict.


Ultimately, it was clear to me that Lisa Jackson produced and wrote and filmed this documentary for Western audiences–not for Rwandan or Congolese.  Her style of filming (intense close-ups, referencing the camera, shots of children), interviews, and content produce (if anything) sympathy and pity for the victims and possible inclination to donate money.  However, the film does little to actually discuss the phenomenon of rape in the Congo effectively or to offer a useful analysis (other than “we’re in the bush so we have to”).


1 Comment

  • st said:

    Your point on the interahamwe is well taken, EB. Indeed, Jackson’s lack of historical context is a weakness of the documentary as it allows her to make trite conclusions (like rape will end once the war does). And her attributing the violence in eastern Congo to interhamwe inadvertently (perhaps) leads less informed viewers to possibly conclude that “Hutu” are doing the raping which in turn simplifies and reduces what is going on in the Congo to ethnic categories. This is a disservice to the women whose experiences she ultimately appropriates. She is not a witness but rather a voyeur.

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