Brussels, Toronto, April 4th, 2018 (SIGNIS/WACC) – Maman Colonelle, directed by Dieudo Hamadi (DRCongo, 2017) receives the SIGNIS-WACC Human Rights Award 2017. A feature-length documentary that highlights an unknown side of History: the courage of one person to fight against sexual abuse in a war-torn country which is the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the most violent conflict is occurring in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  For more than twenty years, the violence has been omnipresent in that part of the immense country. One of the aspects of that war is the sexual violence towards women. There are hundreds of thousands of victims, young and old. The fact that they are sexually abused is already terrible, but the psychological, physical and social consequences are important, too. Society blames them, and doesn’t see them as the victims they are, and deny them of justice and their rights.

Maman Colonelle is a film about this issue, about human rights. It is a film that gives a voice to the voiceless, restores human dignity - and peace- not only to women who suffered war crimes but also to the Africans in general because they are taken the initiative to work for a better society.

In Maman Colonelle, the young Congolese director Dieudo Hamadi follows a Congolese policewoman, Honorine Munyole. She is responsible for a special but small unit for the protection of women and children in Bukavu in Eastern Congo, known for its scandalously high frequency of rape. Hamadi couldn’t foresee that she would be transferred from this city to Kisangani, where he lived. The documentary begins with her transfer from Bukavu to Kisangani. In Bukavu she was respected by everyone and had authority. Now she has to build structures and has to do everything to gain respect and the trust of the local population, the women and above all the administration and the police department. She is determined, and she proves one can make a difference in a corrupt environment. She is doing everything to empower the disillusioned women who are wanting to be recognized as war victims.  

The film won many other awards, including the ecumenical award at the Berlin International Film festival in 2017. At the time, the Ecumenical jury noted that “Dieudo Hamadi gets close to his subject, points to the traumatic aftermath of violence, and then shows the potential, if not for a utopia, at least for a reconstructed community of survivors where hope may emerge”. Other awards include the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award, the Zanzibar Int'l Film Festival Award for Best Documentary and  the Award of the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam.

Last year, the 2016 WACC-SIGNIS Human Rights Award was given to the film Cahier Africain directed by Heid Specogna (Germany/Switzerland, 2016), a feature-length documentary highlighting the fate of the women and their children begotten by force in the Central African Republic.

Every year, the Prize is given to documentaries that seek to throw light on a question of human rights reflecting the values and priorities of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication and was established in 2010.

For more information, please visit the SIGNIS Website (signis.net) and the WACC Website (waccglobal.org/).