Defending justice in the DRC

The film exposes the less seen and more controversial side of the issue of sexual violence in the country, looking at breaches of justice for the perpetrators rather than the victims. The van Velzen sisters’ first two documentaries brought light to the widespread problem of sexual violence in the country, largely from the perspective of its victims.

The audience was interested to know how the film makers came to represent the other side of the story. Van Velzen answered:

“Journalists that go to the Congo write about the victims. But most of the time that is it and they move on. It takes a very long time to find the deeper layers. For us it was really valuable to stay there longer, to really get to the point of seeing it from different points of view. To make a film about a perpetrator was really interesting.”

Justice for Sale examines the corruption rife in Congo’s justice system through the narrative of one lawyer’s attempts to pick apart the case of a young man sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for rape.

“It is interesting how we came across this story. Since 2006 there was this new law so people could actually be convicted of rape, and in 2008 we got the opportunity to follow a military court case for a couple of days. This story stood out. We were not lawyers but I was convinced that on the basis of what was presented he should never be convicted.”

At first, the filmmakers were unsure how to use the footage and whether this case had been an exception or was was an example of what was happening on a more regular basis.

“We then organised two workshops where we showed it to different human rights lawyers and NGOs. They all responded that this is not just one case, it is happening on a larger scale. We then realised this is something we have to dive into”.

One of the most illuminating questions of the night asked how the lawyer – Claudine, who had originally campaigned for the law against rape in 2006 – felt about a film that picked holes in the progress made against sexual violence.

“For Claudine, sexual violence is a huge problem, but if you are dealing with the justice system you have to be clear about everything or it can really endanger the law. The purpose of the documentary is to open a discussion; to show the other side of the coin and that’s what makes the documentary interesting. The NGOs all reacted in very different ways. But some were relieved that they could now debate this side of the story.”

Visit IF Productions to find out more about the trilogy and to learn about the Mobile Cinema Foundation that Ilse and Femke van Velzen have launched as part of their multi-media outreach strategy that includes radio campaigns, soap operas and cartoons.