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

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
Director

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
Producer

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

Chevigny katy filmmaker bio
Producer

Katy Chevigny

Katy Chevigny is a documentary filmmaker, entrepreneur, and nonprofit manager. Chevigny founded Arts Engine and its predecessor Big Mouth Productions. In 2000, Chevigny launched MediaRights.org, a “knowledge commons” for filmmakers, activists, educators, and the general public. The site was awarded the South by Southwest Interactive Media Show more Festival’s Best Green/Nonprofit Business Website in 2005. As a film director, Chevigny recently directed the film Election Day (2007), which premiered at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in March 2007 and was broadcast on public television by P.O.V. on July 1, 2008. Chevigny also co-directed Deadline (2004), an Emmy-nominated documentary about the dramatic events that took place in Illinois in 2003 concerning capital punishment. The film aired on NBC in July 2004 and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won a CINE Golden Eagle Grand Jury Award and the Thurgood Marshall Journalism Award. Chevigny has produced many award-winning documentaries at Arts Engine, including: Arctic Son, Journey to the West: Chinese Medicine Today, Nuyorican Dream, Innocent Until Proven Guilty and Outside Looking In: Transracial Adoption in America. 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.

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