Both winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize are the subject of recent documentaries from female filmmakers. Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad are recipients of the 2018 award, according to Thursday’s announcement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Mukwege is a gynecologist who co-founded a treatment center in the Congo to help women in post-rape recovery; Murad is Yazidi rape survivor and advocate against sexual violence.
The winners were chosen for “being symbols in the fight to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict,” according to NPR.
Informative documentaries released in September and October shed light on the important work of these activists. City of Joy, now streaming on Netflix from documentarians Madeleine Gavin and Jane Mukanilwa, follows Mukwege and fellow activists who founded the treatment center City of Joy to help women recovering from sexual violence.
“Just driving through the streets with [City of Joy co-founder] Christine [Schuler] or Dr. Mukwege, you see the reactions people have to them,” Mukanilwa told FF2 in September. “You drive for 45 minutes and they are waving at everyone, literally tens of thousands of people. They are known for the work they’ve done.”
That work includes treatment for many of the estimated millions of women who have been raped and tortured in the Congo over the past two decades. Mukwege and the community at City of Joy not only give medical care to women who have been brutally violated, they also provide therapy and vocational training to help them not overcome the repercussions of the brutality they've experienced.
"What I'm doing really is not only to treat women — their body," Mukwege told NPR in 2016, "[but] also to fight for their own right, to bring them to be autonomous, and, of course, to support them psychologically. And all of this is a process of healing so women can regain their dignity."
“As Dr. Mukwege explains, our way of thinking has to change because we want these girls to become leaders within the community,” Mukanilwa said. “We need to bring more attention to that. We need to bring Congo into the global conversation.”
City of Joy brings not only Dr. Mukwege to the global forefront, but also the struggles and triumphs of the women in recovery. “We were lucky to be picked up by Netflix for global distribution and will be in 190 countries. That is amazing, and will make a huge difference in terms of raising awareness. But I hope this will also help the international conversation regarding the shame about rape," Mukanilwa said.
Murad’s work also hopes to shed light on the shame her culture associates with survivors of rape and enslavement. Her journey is the focus Alexandria Bombach’s On Her Shoulders, in select theaters October 19. According to the film’s distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories, Murad “survived the 2014 genocide of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq and escaped sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS to become a relentless beacon of hope for her people, even when at times she longs to lay aside this monumental burden and simply have an ordinary life.”
At just 23, she was named the U.N.'s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it selected Murad of 331 candidates for the peace prize because "she refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected.” On Her Shoulders won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
“I have two burdens,” Murad told Time Magazine contributor Kiran Nazish in 2016. “One, is my memory [of the torture, the rape, the murders of her family, the nights and days as a prisoner of ISIS], and the second burden is that of my responsibility. I have to make sure that my fellow women do not suffer like me.”
© Georgiana E. Presecky (10/5/18) FF2 Media
Photos: Murad in On Her Shoulders; Dr. Mukwege in City of Joy.