Butembo is not only the backdrop to the story, but also one of the main protagonists. I did not want to capture a factual record of the city, but rather to engage with the story’s surroundings in a dynamic way. In North Kivu life happens on the street. With a hand held camera we follow Jemima directly into the hustling streets and the chaotic life of Butembo and take the audience along with us into the beating heart of the city, into the dust.
Inner Me is a short documentary that intimately portrays the struggles of 4 deaf women in the city of Butembo, in North Kivu, DR Congo, a country defined by war.
In Congo women’s voices are rarely heard. Victims of a systemic rape culture, women often experience oppression, discrimination and abuse.
Being deaf marginalizes a woman even more. Congolese society considers certain kinds of diversity a threat and still believes that disabilities originated from evil spirits cursing a family. Deaf people cannot hear and can’t be heard. They are outcasts in their own home, cut off from communication and society.
Jemima, the story’s little guide takes us through the dusty red roads of Butembo inviting us to witness her world through her own eyes. While following Jemima through crowded markets, slaughterhouses and bat hunting scenes, we encounter 3 other women, Immaculée, Stuka and Sylvie.
With their strong will the protagonists push through the barriers imposed on them by society and take hold of their fate every single day. Through their eyes and intimate reflections, the women share their powerful stories of struggle and survival revealing the beautiful resilience of the human spirit.
Inner Me is our inner voice. That voice that is so clear within us, but that we might have difficulties expressing to the world. Within all human beings, regardless of who they are, resides an inner voice. Communication and relationships are primal necessities for all of us, and as a filmmaker I am interested in telling stories about the challenges we all face in revealing to others our world, what we are thinking, what we feel and what we desire. These challenges influence the way we relate to everything around us.
Deaf people are the example of the effort it takes to communicate our inner selves.
While working on my previous film, The Silent Chaos, which was originally supposed to be a documentary about the effects of the civil war in Congo, I met a community of deaf people in Butembo who accepted and welcomed me and their personal experiences became an integral part of the film. I was deeply moved by their stories and felt compelled to make another documentary to give voice to the struggles of deaf people in Congo, this time from the perspective of the women.
From the beginning I avoided the observational effect with an objective point of view often found in anthropological documentaries. I was able to create a relationship of trust with the women and followed their everyday lives, not stopping at the mere chronological description of their work and personal environments, but trying to capture their most intimate realities to reveal their inner me and what it means to be female and deaf in Congo.
Each stylistic approach serves to enhance the intimate dimension of Inner Me and to represent as closely as possible the world of the women. The editing weaves rhythmic sequences with visual breathing spaces and close-ups. The original soundtrack holds the narrative structure together easing the audience into the story.
The film will inspire many kinds of people regardless of their background and whether they have normal hearing or are deaf. At its heart it is a story about women, courage and the importance of communication and relationships in our lives.