Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Remember Hotel Rwanda? Ever wondered what happened to all the men with machetes who fled when the world finally stopped turning a blind-eye to the bloodshed?

Well, quite a lot of the Interhamwe didn’t have their fill of death and destruction in Rwanda and spilt over into neighbouring eastern Congo – where militia vying for power use rape as a weapon.

Copy picture

The violence is frequently so brutal that the women suffer from fistula as a result. This is a painful condition which renders them incontinent, threatens their ability to have children and, perhaps most significantly, frequently results in them becoming ostracised from their family and communities. As one of doctor says: “There is nothing worse.”

In a bid to tackle this a HEAL outreach hospital has been set up, run by a squad of women, referred to as “the mamas” who try to mend the women’s minds as well as their bodies, through a spirit of community.

This film tracks a group of women waiting for and convalescing from operations which they hope will restore their health and help them find a way back into their old lives, focussing particularly on the spirited Lumo of the documentary’s title.

When the women arrive at the hospital – often hundreds of miles from their homes – they are scared and shell-shocked, with the fear in their eyes heart-breaking. “When I got here, I was like someone who’s dead,” says Lumo in one of many frank interviews she gives to the camera.

Directors Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Nelson Walker present an intimate and detailed portrait of the lives of these women, from the camaraderie and bolstering of one another to the bitchiness which occasionally bubbles up when you have so many people living in one place for a long time. By blending more direct interviews with footage of day to day life at the hospital, they show the women as women and not just as victims.

Many of them have to undergo multiple operations – and for Lumo, this proves to be a test of her faith as well as her physical stamina. When told she is suffering like Christ, she says: “He is Jesus. I am human.” By focussing on Lumo, Perlmutt and Walker create a bond between the audience and this spirited, but damaged, youngster, meaning you are desperately rooting for her, even though you know the odds are not necessarily in her favour.

The filmmakers have tackled this huge issue with great sensitivity, laying out the facts of fistula but not dwelling on them intrusively. The result is a film as rich in complexity of emotion as the women it captures – and one which serves to remind us the fight for human rights in Africa is a long way from finished.

For more information about HEAL Africa and the film, visit the official site.

Reviewed on: 20 Mar 2007
Share this with others on...
Lumo packshot
Documentary highlighting the plight of raped women in Congo.

Director: Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Nelson Walker

Year: 2007

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: Democratic Republic of Congo/US


Search database: