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Exposing "The Greatest Silence"

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Thanks to Professor Basuli Deb and Lecturer, Sonam Singh (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) for helping to bring Lisa Jackson's film, "The Greatest Silence" to our Mary Riepma Ross Theater for the "Women Make Movies" film festival (February 26-March11).  

In 2003, The Second Congo War ("Great War of Africa") that began in 1998, ended with the installation of the "Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo."  Yet since 2003, rape, murders, malnutrition, disease continue. The latest count since 2008: over 5 million deaths. The photo above is the main street of Bunyakiri, which is known as "The Red Zone" where fighting, brutal rapes and murders are constant.  Bunyakiri's population is around 142,000 with only one hospital and 27 poorly staffed, under supplied healthcare units.  

Jackson's film focuses on the victims of torture rapes: women who have suffered gang rapes,  rifles, knives, brutally shoved into their vagina/uterus, anus--destroying their reproductive organs, destroying their lives, destroying their families, communities, culture. Torture rapes leave their bodies and spirits broken--and this method of brutality is a weapon of war--a war to destroy a culture.  It is genocide.  Imagine all the children in this area born since 1997.  All they have seen and experienced is this brutality. This is all they know. How will they be able to grow up and live peaceful and productive lives?  This film legitimates these women as they articulate what happened to them. It is a step toward empowerment for them.  For us, it is a step in honoring their voices and helping others become aware of these atrocities.

In her article, "Rape and Sexual Abuse of Women in International Law," Professor of International Law, Christine Chinkin (London School of Economics and Political Science) writes, "Rape in war is not merely a matter of chance, of women victims being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Nor is it a question of sex.  It is rather a question of power and control which is structured by male soldiers' notions of their masculine privilege, by the strength of the military's lines of command and by class and ethnic inequalities among women." 

Even though I live in Lincoln, Nebraska (and you may live in Lincoln or other places in the United States), far away from sites of such brutal conflicts, chances are your city is involved with refugee programs.  Since the 1980s, Lincoln has welcomed and resettled 5,500 refugees from Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Congo.  Many of these refugees are victims of torture.  (Read Mary Pipher's book, The Middle of Everywhere.) Maybe your city or town does not have a refugee program.  You can still take action--we all can take action----

Taking Action:  
(1) SIGN the Petition to pass The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA - S. 2982, H.R. 4594): Sign Petition Here.
(2) INFORM yourself about the International Criminal Court:  click HERE
(3) Subscribe to the ICC daily synopsis at
(4) Donate/Keep up with Women for Women International POSTS

Thank you kind readers!  

Teaching Latino Film---

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Enough of the weather for now--let's get back indoors to watch films!  This semester I am lucky to be teaching "Latinos in Film."  We'll be looking at films from the 1930 Talkies to contemporary Latino film and Latinas/Latinos in film. There are so many interesting films, it was difficult to decide which to use and which to put aside for future classes.  

Dracula (Spanish) [VHS]

One early film we'll be discussing is the Spanish language version of "Dracula." Hollywood Director, George Melford filmed two versions:  an English language version during the day and a Spanish language version at night (graveyard shift--no pun intended).  Lupita Tovar, Mexican American actress of the 1930s whose starring role in "Santa" made her famous on both sides of the border, played the Mina character in the Spanish version. In this film, her name is Eva and unlike the Mina from the English-language version, Eva is much more expressive and dominant and this is interesting considering the era.  Don't be misled by the picture above.  The character of Eva negotiates power in this film differently from the English version.  


The shots are also slower and deepen the tension. In an interview, Lupita Tovar discusses how at 7p.m., they would begin shooting and leave at 7a.m. the next day.  Bela Lugosi would arrive on the set much after Lupita had gone home.  She never was able to meet him.  Many critics have noted that this Spanish language version is a much better film than the one with Lugosi playing Dracula.  

"Santa," "Dracula," "Salt of the Earth" and on to films like "Real Women Have Curves"--we're just going to have lots of fun including the chance to learn to write a screenplay.  More on this soon--as we escape the cold to enter the world of film!