An American film maker specializing in African advocacy videos goes behind the scenes of humanitarian aid and activism to see the intricacies of good intentions. The unexpected story that ...
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An American film maker specializing in African advocacy videos goes behind the scenes of humanitarian aid and activism to see the intricacies of good intentions. The unexpected story that follows reveals the lives of two Congolese miners as they react to the competing pressures placed upon them by Hollywood celebrities, rebel soldiers, student activists, and, ultimately, their own families.
We Will Win Peace is a cautionary tale on many fronts. To channel the words of Chimamanda Adichie, it convincingly illustrates "the danger of a single story". It introduces Congolese as musicians, miners, fathers and mothers, not just victims and perpetrators of violence.
The documentary also traces the subjective and sensationalist pathways through which laws in the United States come to pass, whereby celebrities have credibility as expert witnesses and consultations stop at the international border. It highlights the dangers of blind, altruistic advocacy when the repercussions of these discussions are far from immediately obvious. It stops, however, at promoting a 'we know better' approach. The documentary is not explicit on whether legislation on 'conflict minerals' is desirable. It rather underlines the shortcomings of the conflict minerals legislation as it was passed in the United States: cropped and appended to a larger bill, focused on one specific country, and without any concrete provisions for improving the mining situation on the ground.
One of the key questions the documentary raises is how to effectively channel and transform public and celebrity enthusiasm into good policy decisions. Congressional hearings on the consequences of Section 1502 suggest that improvement remains possible and does not necessarily imply returning to an era of opaque supply chains.
The documentary does not, and probably cannot, answer all the questions. In particular, the role of Rwanda is only timidly introduced and land conflict, other resources, and M23 are left unexplored. A trip to Kinshasa to explore the national- level politicking is also absent. Why, for example, did the government in the Congo impose a ban on mining, despite this not being what the Dodd- Frank Act actually called for? Who was pushing for this reform? The lack of access to the capital means that President Kabila and his aides, who are known to benefit more from Katanga than Kivu mining, come out relatively unscathed.
The invisible hand of the market and the withdrawal of big buyers from Eastern Congo come out as being largely responsible for the collapse of livelihoods in the Kivu and Maniema. However, this risks implying that the mines in Eastern Congo are a ubiquitous force for good by simplifying the before and after vignettes.
In 90 minutes, the documentary manages to explain a problem, depict a campaign to tackle this problem, and explain how this campaign failed, which is a commendable achievement. As the producer Ben Radley says: "Why can we not have simple advocacy and complex policy?"
This film is itself the work of advocates who wished to produce a documentary which would also appeal to and resonate with the same demographic whose support propelled the Enough Project to its dizzy and damaging heights.
With the proliferation of celebrity and civil society activism and the expansion in the number of causes they seek to champion, intelligent documentaries such as this should be actively encouraged. It provides an excellent entry point for discussions deconstructing the concepts of "conflict minerals' and the "resource curse' and exploring the issues around lobbying, global celebrity campaigns, and reductive images of Congo. Review by, Georgia Cole and Jean-Benoît Falisse.
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