Pushing the Elephant

One woman’s mission for peace in her country beset by genocidal violence shows a story of forgiveness, hope, and the joy of family life.

Pushing the elephant 01
Women of the World, Independent Lens
Premiere Date
March 29, 2011
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
Series and Special Projects
Davenport beth filmmaker bio

Beth Davenport

Having worked in various capacities at Big Mouth since 2003, Beth Davenport brings more than eight years of production and outreach experience in television, commercials and award-winning documentaries for P.O.V., Sundance Channel, BBC, and Arte France as well as directing advocacy videos and short films. Film credits include the Emmy-nominated Show more film Deadline; Thomas Balmes' Wrongful Death, and Election Day. Beth is currently a producer at Arts Engine, Inc./Big Mouth Films and is producing Asexuality: The Making of a Movement, directed by Angela Tucker and directing Pushing The Elephant, a feature-length documentary. Davenport was a mentor for the IFP Documentary Rough Cut Lab for three years and is a NYFA Fellow. She graduated with a degree in Sociology and Peace and Conflict Resolution from Wayne State University. Show less

Mandel elizabeth filmmaker bio

Elizabeth Mandel

Elizabeth Mandel produced the film Arctic Son (premiered at Full Frame, 2006, broadcast on P.O.V. in 2007) with Dallas Brennan Rexer. She was a co-producer on Jennifer Fox's film and six part series, Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman; served as an associate producer for Jasmine Dellal’s When the Road Bends … Tales of a Gypsy Caravan, and was the producer of Show more the Deadline DVD. She directs and produces educational videos for non-profit organizations such as Johns Hopkins Medical Center’s Project Restore, in addition to producing spots for Nickelodeon and the Sundance Channel. She recently created a series of five educational and organizational videos for Jewish Women International, designed to heighten awareness around the issue of gender-based violence in the Jewish community. She is a 2008 NYFA Fellow. Prior to joining Big Mouth in 2001, Mandel worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Bombay, India, and for the United Nations and the Asia Foundation. She has also worked in Cambodia, Nepal, and Japan on a variety of women’s security and empowerment projects, as well as micro enterprise, community development, leadership training and citizen participation projects. She holds a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in International Affairs, with a focus on Women’s Economic and Political Development and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University with a B.A. in Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures. Show less

Tucker angela filmmaker bio

Angela Tucker

A Brooklyn-based filmmaker and writer, Angela Tucker was the director of production at Big Mouth Films, a social issue documentary production company that is a project of Arts Engine, Inc. Along with Pushing the Elephant (Independendt Lens), Angela produced the Emmy-nominated documentary Deadline (NBS), Election Day (P.O.V.), and Beyond the Steps: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Great Performances). Show more She directed two pieces for The National Black Programming Consortium and ITVS Initiative The Masculinity Project, entitled Invisible Men and a fiction short film, The Birthday Girl. She directs and produces educational videos for non-profit organizations such as Johns Hopkins Medical Center’s Project Restore and GLSEN, in addition to producing spots for Nickelodeon. Show less

Katy chevigny headshot

Katy Chevigny

Katy Chevigny is an award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of Big Mouth Productions. Most recently, she produced Dark Money, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and she directed one of the storylines in Kartemquin Films’ documentary series Hard Earned, winner of a 2016 Alfred I. DuPont Award, which explores the lives of five American Show more families struggling to get by in today's economy. She co-directed (with Ross Kauffman) the EmmyⓇ-nominated documentary E-TEAM, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Chevigny has produced and/or directed 12 critically acclaimed feature-length documentary films through Big Mouth, including Deadline, Election Day and also 1971 with Marilyn Ness. Her work has won multiple awards, been broadcast on networks including PBS, NBC, HBO, Netflix, Arte/ZDF and has played at festivals around the world. Show less

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The Film

In the late 1990s, Rose Mapendo was imprisoned with her family during violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her harrowing experience included the nighttime arrest of her entire family by government agents, the execution of her husband, the birth of their twin sons in prison, and grim negotiations with prison guards to save the lives of her children. She emerged from the harrowing experience advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. In a country where ethnic violence has created seemingly irreparable rifts among Tutsis, Hutus, and other Congolese, this remarkable woman is a vital voice in her beleaguered nation’s search for peace. Now, Rose is confronted with teaching one of her most recalcitrant students how to forgive — Nangabire, the daughter who remained behind.

When war came to Rose’s village, she was separated from Nangabire, who was 4 years old at the time. Rose managed to escape with nine of her 10 children and was eventually resettled in Phoenix, Arizona. More than a decade later, Rose and Nangabire are reunited in Phoenix where they must face the past and build a new future.

Rose struggles to find balance in her life as a mother of 10 and a full-time advocate for refugees, women, and peace in her country. Her speaking engagements take her around the world — from the White House and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, to meetings with displaced women in Congo. Meanwhile Nangabire, now 17, must adapt to America and discover how she fits into the sprawling Mapendo family. As they get to know one another, the mother and daughter must come to terms with a painful past, and define what it means to be a survivor, a woman, a refugee, and an American.

This family portrait unfolds against the wider drama of war, and explores the long-term and often hidden effects of war on women and families, particularly those in traditional societies — financial despair, increased susceptibility to rape, and social ostracism. We also explore what it means to become an active advocate for a peaceful and hopeful future.