What is Unwatchable? The film is a condensed (and it must be said significantly toned down) version of events that befell a Congalese woman named Masika and her family. Unwatchable has been made to raise awareness of the use of rape as a tactic of war and control in Congo. This is being done to control mines that produce valuable minerals that are used in consumer electronic devices, in particular the mineral Coltan (used in smart phones) of which it is estimated that 65 to 80% of the world's reserves are located in Congo. Unlike conflict diamonds that can be easily traced back to their origin, conflict minerals are melted and mixed with other minerals to make their heritage difficult to deduce. In order to control the mines that produce these valuable minerals and fund conflict, armed groups have "weaponised" rape. In order to control roads and mining areas the armed groups enter villages and systematically rape, mutilate and murder men, women and children until the occupants leave, ceding control of the area. Rape is cheaper than bullets or explosives.
The reasons behind the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are many, and I am a humble film blogger not a political analyst, but it is clear that the trade on conflict minerals is a significant factor in the situation. This is a story that goes back decades, and it has rarely been high in the Western news agenda. Therefore the makers of Unwatchable have made the decision to use extreme shock tactics. They have taken Masika's story, and transposed it to the English home counties, the family who are assaulted have become white and upper middle class, the armed soldiers likewise. The 6 minutes of film have been made with Hollywood production values, and unfold with the skill and shock of a well crafted horror film.
Shot by cinematographer Michael Bonvillain who shot Cloverfield, Zombieland and many episodes of Lost, and scored by current Bond composer David Arnold, the film looks and sounds great. Editor Nick Lofting cuts the film like a slick thriller and director Hawker uses slow motion and fast editing to create maximum impact. While not as graphic as A Serbian Film or Cannibal Holocaust, it is a very intense experience in a very condensed time frame and will be extremely upsetting viewing for most.
However I would recommend viewing this. For fans of extreme cinema it is a very well made piece, but beyond that it has the power to provoke, and comes with a political campaign attached. The film has generated a significant amount of press coverage already, much of it taking the predictable tack of asking why a campaign film should use such shock tactics. Such a question seems to assume that the audience for extreme cinema merely watches for kicks. While I would never argue that the pursuit of cheap thrills is not a primary motive for some of the audience (and indeed that is not necessarily a bad thing), I think this misunderstands why we watch films. Is Saló a film for cheap thrills?Cannibal Holocaust? Blue Velvet? Martyrs? Come And See? Some people think so, I disagree.
Please watch Unwatchable, and if it moves you, there is a petition to sign that will be presented to the European Parliament asking for the EU to taking action against European companies found using conflict minerals. There are also details of how to contact your phone provider to raise awareness of the issues.
You can find further details of the campaign, view the film, and find out more about Masika's story at:
Unwatchable is supported by Save The Congo, a not-for-profit organisation, staffed by Congalese students and young professionals that advocates human rights issues and highlights their abuses in the region.
6 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?