City of Joy is the latest Africa-focused documentary coming to foremost streaming service Netflix, and will highlight the abuse and wartime sexual violence that has plagued women of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The title of the documentary takes after the titular City of Joy, a women-run center that has become a haven for survivors of rape and gendered violence.
Located in Bukavu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), City of Joy was founded by three women: Congolese gynaecologist and the 2016 Nobel Peace nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege; feminist activist, playwright and performer Eve Ensler, who is also the author of The Vagina Monologues; and women’s rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver.
Opened in 2011 and run entirely by local Congolese, City of Joy has graduated 1117 women till date and serves around 90 survivors of gender violence aged 18 to 30 at a time. According to City of Joy’s website, “as of June 21, 89 women of the 13th class have been honoured as they celebrated their completion of a 6-month healing and leadership program at City of Joy. These women have been honoured for their courage for overcoming their pain, and for their resilience and determination.”
“One of the things I felt strongly in the making of ‘City of Joy’ is that I wanted this film to have its own language, both tonally and structurally,” director Madeleine Gavin said in a statement. “I understood that I could make a film that was explicit about some of DCR’s history and that told the story of what was going on with women in Congo.”
“The militias use rape as a weapon of war,” a narrator says early on in the trailer, and sets a profoundly sad mood. Survivors give a sneak peek into their ordeals, statistics are unconformably reeled off but the trailer gradually tells a positively transformative journey for the women in City of Joy, an opportunity for them to be human again.
City of Joy first premiered at NYC Film Festival in 2016, and will be available for streaming on Netflix from September 7.