City Of Joy is a movie that all of the world needs to watch.
But, in the wrong hands, it could have been a film that was impossible to watch, though.
Sure, we’re all inclined to insist that we will sit through, learn and act after viewing Madeleine Gavin’s searing documentary.
But being exposed to the horrific violence and rape committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has long been weaponized by the country’s various militia so that they can control the mines and surrounding areas that hold the minerals that power the rest of the world’s electronic products, makes for heavy, if vital, viewing.
Especially when said electronic equipment is right there next to viewers teasing something more light and less intense to escape to.
Luckily, after visiting the titular center, which was set up by women’s right activist Christine Schuler Deschryver, Dr Denis Mukwege and V-Day founder and the author of the “Vagina Monologues” Eve Ensler to help women overcome these atrocities, Gavin knew exactly how to get viewers hooked.
“Even though the stories coming out of Congo were so horrific, there was this palpable strength from the women that was unimaginable to me,” Gavin recently explained to me over the phone.
“I didn’t know how the women, after what they had gone through, still had the desire to live and find hope for the future. Having a young daughter at the time, and with some of them having seen the horrific acts done to their children, I was just in awe.”
Deschryver was always wary of a celebrity or film crew’s actual intentions with City Of Joy until she met Ensler, who “was the only person that actually asked all these women what they wanted.”
Soon after meeting Gavin through Ensler she knew that the director had the perfect vision for covering “City Of Joy.”
“The film is positive and shows how the women are so optimistic. It is about empowering women. That can help people to understand and focus on how they can help these women.”
“The joy and the energy from City Of Joy is unlike anywhere else in the world. That is the place that I have laughed the most in my life.”
“Just because I think that when we all wake up we are so grateful to be alive, well, and have a place like City Of Joy.”
Gavin, who spent four years traveling back and forth to Congo shooting and then editing, went even further with her praise for the power, passion and genuine impact of City Of Joy, which is exactly what she wanted to get through in the film.
“I was struck by these stories not even meeting the women. When I finally wnet to Congo, on the first night I recognized that I had experienced joy in a way that I had never experienced before.”
“In the US we have our highs and our lows. But there’s something that I experienced in Congo, a fierceness of joy that I do not see on the streets of New York City. I made it my mantra in the making of this film that I wanted to try and get that across.”
“I also knew that the stories coming out of Congo were devastating and I was very nervous about audiences turning off and shutting down and being emotionally overwhelmed and not being able to stay with the story.”
“But the more I stayed there the more I knew that if audiences could experience Congo as I had, and certainly as Christine had as she has devoted her life to these women, then this was a ride I knew the audience would want to go on and would care about.”
“I wanted to create something experiential. So it wasn’t just information. It had these highs and lows and an arc and communicated what I had seen for myself in Congo.”
“City Of Joy” is released on Netflix on September 7.