War and societal ills always leave behind a multiplicity of victims. However, while some battle scars are visible, others are not. In 72 minutes, Dieudo Hamadi's MAMA COLONEL depicts the challenges of helping victims of domestic violence, rape and child abuse. It revolves around Colonel Munyole Sikujuwa Honorine, a widowed mother of seven and a commander of a police unit for the protection of children and women against sexual violence.
MAMA COLONEL - English Trailer from Andanafilms on Vimeo.
Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the film portrays Colonel Honorine's efforts at curtailing social malaises in a society that upholds witch-hunts and disregards rehabilitation for rape victims. Following a recent transfer from Bukavu to Kisangani, she is accompanied through a series of meetings, raids and sensitisation campaigns.
Hamadi and his crew are invisible participants, with the full focus being on Honorine whose activities draw attention to the plight of victims of heart-wrenching/traumatic tales of abandonment and ostracism.
Honorine's altruism and enthusiasm towards her duties are not shared by many. From the deplorable state of her official residence, it is obvious how much currency government places on her unit and its duties. The intention of involving the residents of Kisangani in achieving her goal is also resisted by some who wonder why the rape victims "continue to complain about a war everyone has already forgotten". Asides these obstructions, she also has to cope with hostility from the physically-disabled casualties of war who consider themselves the "real victims" chiefly because they are recognised by government.
Honorine's deft handling of the challenges ahead of her and her unit as well as her confidence in creating a compelling narrative alongside Hamadi's crew, underscore her dedication to effecting positive change in debauched surroundings. However, it is ironic that a society, eager to condemn its children to prophets over allegations of witchcraft, is unwilling to contribute solutions to its communal problems.
MAMA COLONEL, which won two independent jury awards at the 2017 Berlinale [and the prestigious Grand Prize at 2017 Cinéma du réel FilmFest, in Paris, Note by the Editor], is as much homage to Colonel Honorine as it is a criticism of the society she has to deal with. Hamadi's spruced and matronly protagonist shows that there is some hope for Kisangani's neglected and abused, despite society's reluctance to accept them.
by Adefoyeke Ajao
First published in iREP 2017 Newsletter - Issue 1, edited by Derin Ajao, with support of iRep FilmFest and Goethe-Institut Nigeria. Courtesy iREP.