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Pushing the Elephant

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Katy Chevigny and Angela Tucker
Directed by Beth Davenport and Elizabeth Mandel
DVD, color, 83 min.
Sr. High - General Adult
African Studies, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Human Rights, Womenís Studies

Reviewed by Rue McKenzie, University of South Florida, Tampa

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 9/8/2011

Pushing the Elephant follows Congolese genocide refugee Rose Mapondo as she tirelessly advocates global forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. She and 9 of her 10 children were relocated to Phoenix, Arizona in 2000, after imprisonment in a death camp and the murder of her husband. Ten years after being resettled, the film focuses on Roseís current life and work, and the reunion of her 10th child with the rest of the family.

Religion and family are the sources of Roseís strength. While forgiveness is the main theme of the film, the sense of community, family relationships, and the need to move toward a positive future while letting go of the violent past are present throughout the program. The political aspects of genocide are touched upon, but it is the need to reconcile with forgiveness the effects of genocide on our humanity that is the true focus.

While Rose Mapondoís large scale global efforts are observed in a broad view, the reconnection of her teenage daughter Nangabire with the family is intimately documented. The effects of the ten year separation from her family are exposed to reveal trauma similar to that experienced by the older members of the family during time spent in the Congolese death camp.

The film could have been justifiably weighed down with the heartbreaking stories of brutality, death and destruction that surround genocide. The effects of war and violence in particular on women and children are examined. Ultimately, with a recurring emphasis on the role of women and their power to exact change for the better, Rose Mapondo insists upon driving forgiveness, gratitude, and faith in humankind to the forefront.

Pushing the Elephant is an extremely well done documentary filled with strength and sensitivity. It tackles the complex issues surrounding the direct and indirect effects of genocidal violence while providing a sense of hope through positive action. This film is appropriate for general viewing, and would be a valuable resource for a wide variety of academic subjects.

Highly recommended


  • 2011 Womenís International Film and Arts Festival, Winner, Best Documentary Feature