Over 2 days there were screenings of more than 35 films and documentaries from 14 countries that illuminate the reality of conflict-related sexual violence. The screenings were open to the public and were combined with a series of discussions with filmmakers and leading experts on conflict-related sexual violence.
PSVI Co-Founder and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie joined young filmmakers from conflict-affected and Commonwealth countries, including Sierra Leone, who took part in a series of workshops designed to help build their capacity to tell their stories and change attitudes in their own societies. Ms Jolie lead a Q&A session with Congolese Nobel Peace Prize winner and preventing sexual violence activist, Dr Denis Mukwege.
Sierra Leone was represented by filmmaker Lansana Mansaray, known locally as Barmmy Boy. He said “the festival was excellent. I learned new camera techniques, looking at framing, angles, light image quality, sound, and new software. My discussion with Angelina Jolie about my film project was great. We talked about challenges, support, collaboration, distribution and audience. For me a big part of my experience was meeting and hearing from other filmmakers from around the world with different stories and ideas. I am very happy to be part of this movement, using film to fight stigma.”
Over 2 thirds (68%) of all the films being screened were directed or produced by women. Among the titles, the festival hosted the world premiere for Leslie Thomas’ film ‘The Prosecutors’ which explores the fight to get justice for survivors of sexual violence.
The film festival was part of the build-up to the UK-hosted Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict International Conference in November 2019, which will aim to galvanise governments around the world into taking tangible new steps to address sexual violence in conflict, and to uphold international commitments to bring perpetrators to account.
The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “Since launching the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) in 2012, the UK has continued to lead global efforts to end the horror of sexual violence in conflict. We’re calling on the international community to provide better justice for survivors and to hold perpetrators to account, strengthening global legal mechanisms needed to do so.
“But alongside this, social change is needed. Stigma is a global problem that entrenches poverty and disentrancement. That’s why changing hearts and minds is not only a moral imperative, but also a vital component of upholding international peace and security.”
PSVI Co-Founder Angelina Jolie said: “Artists and human rights defenders often take significant risks to tell the truth about crimes committed against defenceless women, children and men during war. The perpetrators of war crimes often go to extreme lengths to keep the truth from being told. So I am proud to support the filmmakers taking part in the festival.
“Stigma compounds the suffering of survivors of warzone rape. It is an unbearable injustice on a human level, and it is a major obstacle to achieving justice for victims of these sickening acts of violence. We need to examine and change the entrenched social attitudes that treat sexual violence as an inevitable consequence of war or lesser crime – including harmful attitudes to women.”
The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, who will be taking part in the event, said: “Rape is a crime that can turn victims into outcasts, undermining social cohesion and unravelling family ties. It is time to take a more proactive approach to tackling stigma as a specific harm.”