ITVS Staffers Respond to Pushing the Elephant

Posted on March 9, 2011

ITVS staffers offer their take on the upcoming Independent Lens documentary.

Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and to honor the occasion, BTB presented a live chat with PBS NewsHour on Women’s Empowerment. The documentary Pushing the Elephant (airing March 29 on Independent Lens) was featured prominently in the discussion, with the filmmakers and subject, Rose Mapendo, participating in the chat. This month, ITVS staffers will offer up their very personal responses to the documentary about one Congolese refugee's attempt to find forgiveness and start a new life. Today’s post comes from our Senior Publicity Manager, Voleine Amilcar.

One of the great things about working at ITVS is the exposure to a steady stream of great documentaries that have the power to move you. Every now and then a documentary comes along and strikes a personal chord. In the upcoming Independent Lens broadcast, Pushing the Elephant, I found a story that mirrored a definitive moment in my life.

I was most moved by the forced separation of Rose and her daughter Nangabire. Rose made the heart-wrenching decision to leave behind five-year-old Nangabire during the ethnic violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rose managed to escape with nine of her 10 children and eventually resettled in Phoenix, Arizona — but she had to live with the biting reality that she had left one child behind. 

In the early 1980s my parents emigrated from Haiti to California, fleeing the repression of the Duvalier dictatorship and in search of more favorable economic opportunities. They made a difficult decision to leave my sister and I behind in the care of extended family. I was barely a toddler and my sister was just a few years older. But they were propelled by the hope of a better future for us. My family’s journey to America was far less harrowing than what Rose and her 10 children witnessed and survived. But watching the film I understood the unspoken words between Rose and Nangabire when they were reunited 10 years later. I experienced the same silent exchanges with my mother years later when we reunited in California as we struggled to make up for lost time. I saw in Rose my mother’s strong resilience that enabled her to help my sister and I to look forward and move past those years she was absent from our lives.  

And as I watched Nangabire struggle to adapt to life in America, I recalled my own awkward struggles of assimilation to life in a strange new land. At the end of the film, what I saw reflected was a family that survived unspeakable horrors only to emerge triumphant, despite all that they had faced. Their story was a strong reminder for me to never forget the biggest sacrifice my parent’s made for the sake of our family’s future.   


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