Hot Docs 2017: Mama Colonel Review

International Spectrum

The eponymous Mama Colonel is Honorine Munyole, a policewoman who is in charge of a unit dedicated to protecting children and women from physical and sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The subject is an amazing heroine the whole world deserves to know about, but I wished the documentary elaborated a bit more on her and the unit’s background and what the future may hold for them.

As the documentary begins, Munyole is getting ready for a move from Bukavu to Kisangani. Her absence will be noticed by many of the Bukavu women, who break out sobbing and asking her who will protect them now. A few have been exploited by men and children have been left without adequate support. Munyole is sympathetic but can only assure them that her replacement (a man) will address their needs and concerns. I would have been interested in knowing what happened to these villagers after the move.

In Kisangani, Munyole is given responsibility for a whole unit of officers. Later, when planning a tactical sweep of a house, she cautions them to not steal anything. I wonder how much she trusts her officers and what brought them all to be in this unit (and how the unit was formed in the first place). Munyole is a striking figure, and mostly always in her pristine uniform. She knows what she represents to those in her care: perhaps, the only solace they are able to find after an assault.


A striking moment occurs in the documentary when several women describe their experiences during the Six-Day War, a conflict between Ugandan and Rwandan forces in Kisangani that took place in 2000. Women were raped in front of their husbands, the husbands were killed, and some children were kidnapped. Mama Colonel is to deliver justice. The court of appeals worries it is a jurisdictional issue and that victims may not remember their assailants.

Munyole may not be able to solve every issue, but she certainly finds an innovative approach to a long-standing problem by utilizing the services of “invisible” victims of the Six-Day War and helping them be useful to the community they reside in. Confronting superstitious beliefs where Satanism is thought to be the cause of “bad behaviour,” (and beatings and deprivation the only solutions) Mama Colonel’s presence, and her clear-sighted, incorruptible nature make her a force to be reckoned with. I only wish we had more time with her, and that there was a Law and Order: SVU Kisangani edition.


Sat, May 6, 9:15 PM Scotiabank Theatre 3


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