October 23, 2016

Documentary on Akayesu case makes debut at UN; reviewers call it "riveting," a "courtroom thriller"

The Uncondemned,” a film about the first prosecution of rape as a war crime, saw its theatrical release over the week-end in New York City, where it will play through October 27, at the Sunshine Cinema, SoHo.  The film, which will play in some 30 major markets through the end of the year, opened to critical acclaim in the New York TimesThe Village Voice, and the New York Daily News. Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel co-directed the film.

Witnesses JJ, OO & NN, along with Godelieve Mudasarasi of SEVOTA, a Rwandan NGO supporting widows and children of the Rwandan genocide. 

A feature-length documentary, “The Uncondemned” recounts the prosecution by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of Mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu for crimes against humanity and acts of genocide,  including acts of sexual assault, against residents of Taba commune, which he governed.  The film actually interweaves two stories.  One is that of the Taba rape survivors—until now known only as JJ, NN, and OO—and the social worker and founder of SEVOTA, Godeliève Mukasarasi, who encouraged and empowered them to participate in the prosecution.  The other story is that of the team of young lawyers who worked on the case, including trial counsel Pierre-Richard Prosper (now with Akin Gump) and Sara Darehshori (now with Human Rights Watch, working on issues of sexual assault in the United States).  Also appearing in the film are Patricia Sellers, gender advisor to ICTR and ICTFY at the time the Akayesu case was investigated and tried, Rosette Muzigo-Morrison, a UNinvestigator from Uganda, and Binaifer Nowrojee, who from her position with Human Rights Watch in East Africa wrote Shattered Lives, a report on Sexual Violence during the Rwandan genocide and campaigned for the prosecution of rape as a war crime.  My own work as gender consultant at ICTR—twenty years ago this fall—is also featured in the film.  

The October 21 theatrical release followed a special viewing at the United Nations on October 19.  The Rwandan witnesses, along with Mukasarasi, were special guests at the UN event, hosted by Zainab Hawa Bangura Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  A Yazidi rape survivor previously held captive by ISIS also appeared at the event, speaking on a panel about sexual assault during war that followed the screening.  The UN promoted the hashtag #EndRapeinWar at the screening.     

“The Uncondemned” was shown at several film festivals in the past year, taking the 2015 Brizzolaro Family Foundation Award for the Best Film on Conflict and Resolution at the Hamptons International Film Festival The documentary also played at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and the Napa Valley Film Festival.  Reviewers have called the film a “must see” and “riveting,” and characterized it as a “courtroom thriller.” 

Following the week-long run in NYC, “The Uncondemned” will open in Los Angeles on October 28, at the Laemmle Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd.   Beginning on November 4, the film will run for one week in Washington DC at the E Street Theatre, 555 11th Street, NW, and for one week in Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Avenue N.  You can find information on all screenings here.     

Cross-Posted to International Law Grrls. 

From left to right at UN Premiere on October 19:  Sara Darehshori, co-director of "The Uncondemned" Michele Mitchell, Pierre Prosper and Lisa R. Pruitt