by Michael dEstries
Categories: Causes
Tags: .

sienna miller, 8 minutes

Earlier this Spring, Sienna Miller traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to document the lives of women living in a treacherous conflict. “I broke down twice on this trip,” she wrote in a blog entry for TakePart.com. The first time after being in the displacement camp outside Goma, seeing the woman with the colostomy bag. I had to step into an empty tent and sob. I had consciously planned on keeping it together, but the visual and the look in her eyes broke me. After that, some form of defense mechanism kicks in. Of course you feel enormous empathy but there is no room for personal emotion in these places.”

Her short documentary, titled 8 minutes, is named after the horror that a woman is raped in the Congo every 8 minutes. Have a look below — and to find out how you can help, click here.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

View all posts by Michael dEstries →
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  • marcela

    WOW. short but straight documentary. It broke me in what?? 30 seconds??. rape in any way should be stopped.

  • http://www.acacdrcongo.org Tanja Bergen

    I am a student at the University of British Columbia and I work on a student-run, research-based advocacy project (www.acacdrcongo.org).

    I must admit that there are aspects of this movie that concern me.

    I originally wrote a blog post about this movie several months ago (http://blogs.ubc.ca/ethicsofisl/2009/10/15/8minutes/). I admit that it takes on an unnecessarily flippant, perhaps attacking, tone and would like to open the space for constructive dialog with this post.

    My criticism of her movie, as well as a great deal of advocacy that focuses on the African continent and the African Diaspora (Haiti, Jamaica, etc.), is that it often relies on ‘received wisdom,’ instead of rigorous research, to make policy recommendations. By this, I mean advocacy efforts that employ negative stereotypes, through labeling, to promote a specific policy paradigm. This method is problematic because it often narrows the scope of policy debate, which can lead to flawed development policy and even harm those that we seek to help.

    In other words, I question if good intentions and a desire to help are enough. I conclude that they are not. Rather, research-backed policy and recognition of the agency of those affected by war, violence and other development challenges are necessary to truly stand in solidarity with people struggling to ensure their human rights and dignity.

    Sienna Miller’s movie ‘8 minutes,’ relies on labels and narratives – not rigorous research – to support a policy paradigm. Harmful stereotypes of Africa are constantly reinforced throughout this video. Black women are portrayed solely as helpless victims, “they are *all* afraid and they pray that someone, someday, will come and help them.” The stories of rape maximize the brutality, the horror, the ‘otherness’ of African peoples.

    Furthermore, these labels make human beings, just like you and I, into target groups or passive objects of policy, rather than active subjects with projects and agendas of their own. From its first scene the video shuts down the space to discuss policies that could link resources and funds to the many local Congolese organizations that are doing an excellent job of speaking for themselves and advocating for their own rights. It does however establish a narrative in which helpless black women are being brutalized by demonic black men, in turn reinforcing the idea that we, the benevolent and enlightened west, know what is best for these people – how save them, how to fix their problems (as we perceive them).

    I would like to concede that not all celebrity activism is bad, in the wake of the current disaster in Haiti it has been heartening to see Sienna Miller use her fame to encourage her fans to donate money to credible organizations that specialize in disaster relief.

    For anyone interested in constructive dialogue on these issues, I would encourage you to visit the following websites:

    wwww.acacdrcongo.org (for practical policy options to address sexual and gender based violence in the DRC)

    or

    http://blogs.ubc.ca/ethicsofisl/about/ (to learn about ethical international engagement)