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U.S. Africa Command Screens "Weapon of War" Documentary
&quot;I&#39;ve talked to soldiers,&quot; says Captain Basima, a priest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo&#39;s Army, in the documentary &quot;Weapon of War.&quot; &quot;They say that when they win, the women become war booty.&quot;<br /> <br
STUTTGART, Germany - Dutch filmmakers Ilse and Femke van Velzen answer questions from U.S. Africa Command staff, following the screening of the documentary "Weapon of War", April 11, 2012. The documentary focused on rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was part of U.S. AFRICOM's Command Movie Series. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: STUTTGART, Germany - Dutch filmmakers Ilse and Femke van Velzen answer questions from U.S. Africa Command staff, following the screening of the documentary "Weapon of War", April 11, 2012. The documentary focused on rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was part of U.S. AFRICOM's Command Movie Series. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
"I've talked to soldiers," says Captain Basima, a priest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Army, in the documentary "Weapon of War." "They say that when they win, the women become war booty."



During decades of conflict, more than 150,000 women and girls have been raped in the DRC, according to the film recently screened at U.S. Africa Command. "Weapon of War" chronicles the stories of both rapists and their victims as they wrestle with the aftermath of these horrific acts of warfare.



About 100 people gathered at Kelley Barracks' theater on April 11, 2012, to view the documentary as part of the U.S. Africa Command Movie Series. Dutch filmmakers Ilse and Femke van Velzen traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, where U.S. Africa Command is based, to participate in a Question and Answer session after the film. The event marks the first time a U.S. military command has screened "Weapon of War," they believe.



The story of rape as a tool of warfare is told by the Congolese in their native languages, with English subtitles, against the backdrops of lush green hills, muddy rivers, and bustling villages. "In the way we make our films, the story comes from the Congo. So it's not that the experts are telling how it is, but it's a different type of storytelling," said Ilse van Velzen.



This frank portrayal created an educational framework for the viewing at AFRICOM, which was established in 2007. "Because it's such a young organization, not everyone has been to Africa or different African countries," said Ilse van Velzen, who formed IFPRODUCTIONS with her twin sister. "This does provide you with, of course, a lot of different input, and the discussion afterwards helps." She added, "Films never tell the whole complexity, but it does trigger you maybe to pick up a book or read more articles about it."



Jeff Spencer, a regional desk officer at AFRICOM who specializes in the DRC and Central Africa, was in the audience. "I thought it was excellent," he said. "It was serious. It wasn't over the top." The screening also sparked thoughts for him about whether the film could be shared with senior military and government leaders in Africa to help halt rape as a military tool used during conflicts.



As soldiers explain in the film, sexual violence was used to punish their enemies by raping their wives, sisters, and daughters. Some rebels believed they could use the horror of rape to provoke the government into negotiating with them.



Rape victims are often left with a life in turmoil, facing scorn from the community and blame from their family. And even when victims do receive support, the filmmakers noticed a stark absence of attention on those who raped during the conflict. "In our point of view, if you really want to stop rape, you need to look at the source," said Ilse van Velzen.



The perpetrators of rape can be deeply affected by their crimes. Some suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. One former rebel has vivid nightmares and appears haunted by the knowledge of a woman's life he has destroyed. He is driven to try to find his victim to ask for forgiveness.



In the DRC, several thousand soldiers have watched "Weapon of War," according to the filmmakers. They have also produced documentaries "Bush Kids," "Return to Angola," and "Fighting the Silence." Their latest film, "Justice for Sale," about the DRC justice system, premiered in November. The DVD will be released next month.



To watch a trailer of "Weapon of War," visit http://weaponofwar.nl/trailer.php.



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