Lumo Film Review: Democratic Republic of Congo/US 2006
by Fatima Dupres
This Human Rights Watch film tackles the political and personal abuses of war as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, a once ordinary 20 year old village girl, Lumo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo . Lumo Sinai's story addresses the horrific yet common practice of using rape as a weapon of war and terror.
During the nearly six- year civil war in Eastern Congo , gang rapes by soldiers were so common place, that doctors recorded vaginal wounds as crimes of combat. Going about her usual farming duties in the local bushes, Lumo, like several other women, is one day unexpectedly kidnapped and brutally raped by militia men.
The film shows Lumo going to hospital for victims of sexual violence, where she receives treatment for a fistula, a typical condition resulting from brutal entry of a woman. Lumo, like the other raped women, was left incontinent with the very real possibility of being unable to give birth to future children. The latter possibility is dear to Lumo's heart, since the fistula, led to Lumo's fiancé calling off their engagement, and Lumo's family did not accompany her to hospital for the long, often unsuccessful treatment. Lumo's hopes were dashed at least four times, and we see her desperately hoping to be cured, to leave hospital and resume her life prior to the trauma. Lumo's happy;go;lucky attitude and wistfulness makes her condition all the more tragic and painful to watch, guessing how normal she would have been if the brutal rape had never occurred, robbing her and many like her, of their womanhood and innocence.
In the rape survivors hospital, Lumo is treated with love and warmth, and encouraged to think positively about being cured finally and moving on with her life. The Mamas, the wise women and counsellors, all try to help Lumo believe in God's ability to cure her. Despite enduring several failures of the operation intended to fully restore Lumo to good health, she bravely struggles on, watching others leave and celebrating their cure. It is her dogged determination to get well, get married and have children, that keeps Lumo's faith and dreams alive. The quest for true love keeps Lumo and the other rape survivors dreams afloat as the Mamas help them come to terms with their brutal past ordeal.
Towards the end of this sad, yet powerful documentary, Lumo leaves hospital cured and returns to her village to be once more accepted by her family and fiancé. The filmmakers present at the screening informed us that sadly, Lumo's operation again failed after the cameras had stopped rolling, and she was forced to return to hospital. However, viewers with or without this knowledge, are left with an abiding sense of hope for Lumo's full recovery, faith in the communal love and solidarity of women and the tenacity of the human spirit to endure and ultimately triumph! A great story tackling war crimes against innocent women, girls and children in the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo , where since the start of the war in 1998, an estimated 4 million lives have been lost, and according to the April issue of Essence magazine, millions of women and children have been brutally killed during these violent years.