Cahier Africain | DocFilm | DW | 22.06.2018
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Cahier Africain

While the women tried to come to terms with their trauma, war broke out again in Central Africa. Amzine, Fane and Arlette were again thrown into a scene of violence, death and displacement, forced to witness the collapse of their country.

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The checkered pages of an inconspicuous school exercise book contain the brave testimonies of 300 Central Africans, most of them women but some men too. In the "Cahier Africain," the victims detail what was done to them by Congolese mercenaries during an armed conflict in 2002. After an elaborate secret mission, the notebook came into the hands of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The hope was that it would serve as decisive evidence in the trial of the Congolese militia leader and politician Jean-Pierre Bemba. He was the first defendant to be tried before the International Criminal Court for ordering rape as a strategic weapon. Today, the notebook is kept in the vaults of the court in The Hague along with thousands of pieces of evidence of other war crimes. Heidi Specogna's film accompanies its protagonists from the village of PK 12, a suburb of the city of Bangui. Amzine, a young Muslim woman, gave birth to a child as a result of being raped in 2002. Her twelve-year-old daughter Fane is a daily reminder of this trauma. Arlette, a Christian girl, suffered for years from an unhealed gunshot wound. After successful surgery in Berlin, she is now hoping that she will one day be free of pain. But in the midst of the PK 12 villagers' attempts to return to ordinary life and while The Hague was still processing the latest war crime indictments, war flared up again in the Central African Republic. Amzine, Fane and Arlette were again thrown into a maelstrom of violence, death and displacement. Through them, the film documents the collapse of order and civilization in a country torn apart by civil wars and coups. The film originally intended to focus on the women’s attempts to gain a foothold in life after experiencing extreme violence. But the renewed fighting in the Central African Republic suddenly rewrote the script.