Maman Colonelle (Mama Colonel)Berlin Film Festival 2017
Set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mama Colonel follows the formidable journey of Colonel Honorine Munyole, the leader of a small police unit on a mission to locate and protect women and minors who are victims of war.
The documentary is shot in a very sincere way, with no narration or voiceover, and nothing added in to soften its themes – this is simply the harsh truth of the Congo’s situation. Honorine, nicknamed “Mama”, is transferred from Bakavu, where she has worked for many years, to the region of Kisangani, where she faces a whole new set of obstacles in her work. However, we quickly learn that Honorine is a strong, capable and compassionate woman, with a determination to bring about change. She and her team set about searching for people in need of support. They are looking in particular for sufferers of rape and abuse, hoping to offer them safety, a new start and the psychological coping skills they will need to move on in their lives. Many of the women they come across in Kisangani have been sexually abused and even witnessed their families being murdered, but have felt unable to speak out, while many of the children they find have been neglected and accused of witchcraft by adults.
As a mother of six and a widow herself, Honorine is able to offer some much-needed understanding and patience to the agonised women and children she and her team encounter, but as the film crew continues to follow them from one scene of despair to another, it becomes clear just how unmanageable the region’s problems have become. In a place so rife with depression, poverty, abuse and distorted social perceptions, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the task of putting things right here – but Honorine simply gets on with her job.
Director Dieudo Hamadi seems to give a warm recognition to Honorine’s strength through the way Mama Colonel quietly portrays her throughout as a kind of heroine and matriarchal figure. She is the clear leader in this story, and the documentary gracefully pays its respects to her efforts. As this authentic, admirable and meaningful film comes to an end, however, it does not try to deny or sugar-coat the enormity of the issues addressed, but instead offers the reassuring reminder that at least there are still people who make it their duty to help.
Maman Colonelle (Mama Colonel) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Mama Colonel here: