We watched the documentary “Reporter” in my reporting lecture last week. (Fitting, I know.) The film followed New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on a trip to the Congo to cover the genocide occurring there. It was both fascinating and disturbing.
Fascinating to follow Kristof on his various visits around Goma and see him interview the Warlord Nkunda. Fascinating as a journalist to see how a seasoned veteran like Kristof conducted himself in unfamiliar territory and worked to find a gripping story.
Disturbing to see the graphic images on the screen and hear the young soldiers talk about rape. The former, showing a man whom villagers had shot the night before, lying on the ground, moaning, eyes still blinking, stomach still heaving. It wasn’t just a fleeting image, it was a deliberate, long look at the man. Point made. I had to look away. The latter, a prisoner of war captured by Nkunda who told Kristof that if it is war, then it’s okay to rape the women villagers. So eerie. I got the chills.
One afternoon, Kristof and the two contest winners traveling with him were shown to a woman, Yohanita, who was up the road from some villagers. She was seriously malnourished and dying from an infection. She shrieked in pain. The villagers shared that she had once been a very promising young woman, a school teacher, trying to earn money and make a better life. It was amazing to hear from Kristof that he was surprised to hear that, because he thought she had always been that way. His admission was powerful. It made me wonder how many other Yohanitas are there? People like her who once had promise but have been knocked down by their circumstances, people who are now dismissed by others. This really struck me. It doesn’t apply just in relation to the Congo either, but in the grand scheme of things there are so many Yohanitas out there who never had a chance to tell their stories. Isn’t it my job to find them?