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Weapon of War

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In WEAPON OF WAR military perpetrators unveil the hidden motives and strategies of rape as a war crime. An ex-rebel explains how he raped. Like for many, starting a normal life again is a struggle filled with trauma. In an attempt to reconcile with his past, he meets one of his victims.
Captain Basima is working as a priest in Congo’s army and confronts perpetrators of rape. He urges them to change. Just like he did.


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Running Time: 59 min,
Subject(s): Conflicts, Crime, Human Rights, Military, Politics, Society, War
Language(s): French, Swahili
Subtitles: English
Director(s):
Producer(s): Femke van Velzen, Ilse van see all »
Cinematographer: Bram Van Spengen
Editor(s): Paul De Heer
Production Company: Ifproductions

Press

  • “Recommended. The film strongly conveys…how the violence and inhumanity spawned by war impact individual lives and nations.”
    Educational Media Reviews Online
  • Dutch Film Awards Jury statement
    "The documentary unambiguously shows that elementary human values disappear in extreme conditions. As viewers we witness the confrontation of people with their own actions. The film shows how they try to reconcile with both themselves and with their victims. This film is about the systematic rapes of women and children in Congo. By focusing the camera on the perpetrators and their attempts at self-insight, not only a shocking picture of war methods is revealed. It also shows the will to break through this horrendous cycle of violence."

Festival & Awards

  • International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands - 2009
  • Dutch Film Awards - 2010
    Golden Calf Award Best Short Documentary
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, USA - 2010
  • Planet Doc Review, Poland - 2010
    Planet Doc Review, Poland
  • TRT International Documentary Film Competition, Turkey - 2010
    Best Documentary Int'l Category Award
  • Addis Film Festival - Ethiopia Film Festival - Ethiopia - 2010
  • Belgrade Documentary Film Festival, Serbia - 2010
  • Dick Scherpenzeel Awards, Netherlands - 2010
    Award for Best Dutch Journalistic Production
  • Movies that Matter Festival, Netherlands - 2010
  • Botswana Film Festival, Botswana - 2010
  • International Film Festival on Human Rights, Argentina - 2010
  • International Film Festival and Forum on Human rights, Switzerland - 2010
  • Human rights Film Festival, Norway - 2010
  • International Documentary Film Festival, Mexico - 2010
  • Human rights Film Festival, Jordan - 2010

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  • In Weapon of War military perpetrators unveil the hidden motives and strategies of rape as a war crime in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The film tells the story of a soldier and a former rebel that are both facing rape in different ways.

    The ex-rebel explains how he forced women to have sex with him. The war had changed him into a wild animal. In an attempt to reconcile with his past, he meets one of his victims. But faced with poverty, depression and trauma, starting a normal life again proves a difficult struggle – like it is for thousands of others that participated in Congo’s bloody wars. Captain Basima is working as a priest in Congo’s army. He has made it his mission to confront perpetrators of rape with the consequences of their crimes. Despite the resistance he meets from fellow-soldiers and militia, he is determined to change their behaviour. Just like he did.

    Weapon of War is a documentary with extraordinary military images, impressive interviews and very intimate portraits of rapists. By revealing this to the world, Weapon of War can move people to action and contribute to the search for solutions to end sexual violence in DR Congo.

    Sexual violence in DR Congo

    Wherever war breaks out, men with guns rape. But nowhere in the world reached sexual violence a scale and level of brutality as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Possibly hundreds of thousands of women and girls were systematically raped and the figure still rises. Rape affects the stability and integrity of an entire country. Women that are victim face humiliation and rejection. The community turns its back on them at the time they most need care, security and understanding. Despite growing international attention for rape in Congo, it still is a taboo subject and continues to destroy lives and disrupt families.

    Unique testimonies on rape by perpetrators

    Sexual violence is in Congo usually explained from the victims’ perspective. In a unique way, Weapon of War gives Congolese soldiers and rebels that raped the opportunity to speak out about their crimes. Why and how did they do it? Do they feel regret? Do they use rape as a war strategy? The openhearted but shocking testimonies of perpetrators reveal that there are many factors that explain why rape occurs. Those include peer pressure, bad military leadership, sexual needs, fetishism and in some cases deliberate warfare strategies.

    Trauma as reintegration challenge

    The documentary also makes clear that conflict also has a devastating impact on the lives of perpetrators; an impact that is both cause and consequence of their violent behaviour. Combatants in Congo have experienced or participated in gruesome killings, rapes and other crimes. As a consequence they face depression, alcoholism, become aggressive or develop a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If not handled well, the reintegration of a large number of such traumatised ex-combatants into society or the national army presents a serious security risk for Congo’s future. Part of the challenge to curb such risks lies in assuring proper military training, reasonable and timely salaries for soldiers and psychosocial assistance for ex-combatants.

    Educational project for Congo’s army

    With the footage of ‘Weapon of War’ Ilse and Femke van Velzen are currently editing a number of educational films. These will be brought back to Congo in to educate Congo’s National Army on issues like sexual violence, military conduct and impunity. The ‘Mobile Cinema’ project, whereby the previous documentary of IFPRODUCTIONS currently circulates from village to village proofs that film is a power tool to reach out to thousands of people to stimulate public discussion.

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