In talking with Pamela Hogan about her upcoming film, "I Came To Testify," to kick off the PBS series "Women, War & Peace" that airs on October 11th, she told me some of the back story on the filming process. Here's Part two of that interview. (To catch up on Part One, click here.)
I walked away from watching "I Came To Testify" with admiration and respect for what the Bosnian women had been through and for what they accomplished. Hogan and her team consciously put the witnesses' voices front and center in the film. Narrator Matt Damon was aware of this too. Hogan shared a story from one of their filming sessions:
There was one point in the recording session with him and it was a point when the narrator says that one of the soldiers had sold a 12-year-old girl and she was never seen again. That was one of the few testimonies which was completely sealed off from the public and it's not available to be heard so we can't use it in the film...
When the mother of that 12-year-old testified, it brought the trial to a standstill. They had to call a recess because she just started sobbing and they said it sounded like a wild animal and they just had to stop. So that was an incredibly profound and emotional moment in the trial and I did say to him, "Why don't we just do one more take of that with you giving a little more?" He said, "You know what, let's listen to it together, but I think your material is so dramatic that I don't want to overwhelm it." And he was right.
I asked Hogan about the process of finding women willing to be filmed. She said:
It was a delicate process. The first thing we had done was to reach out to the investigators and prosecutors that they had trusted from The Hague ... Generally speaking, there's a lack of interest ... towards journalists who want to come, tell the rape story and walk out the door. It wasn't this way from the beginning. During the war and right after the war, women talked with journalists freely. Since then, there has not been a lot of interest at all. As a matter of fact, Witness 99 said, "'Actually when I hear from journalists I feel like throwing up." It's traumatizing to retell it. They get headaches. They all have lasting medical conditions. They're in fragile health. They have to take very good care of themselves. They've been tortured and there are lasting physical and psychological effects to that.
I know a lot of people shy away from material that's this intense or can only take it in small doses. I asked Hogan about what carried her through in dealing with this intensity on a daily basis when she was making the film. She told me that she felt like all the women from the case were in the editing room with her and she took that responsibility to heart.
But then, what carries you through are these incredible things that come through even through the darkest moments and the courage. Leymah [Gbowee] (from Pray the Devil Back to Hell airing 10/18) is just so eloquent about the courage that it just takes to be a survivor. We think of it as all victims. Women are victims at war and women are targeted more, in larger numbers than ever.
[Leymah] gave [us] a litany of things that women do, that she and her friends did in Liberia to get through the war. She said, "You know, you have a cup of rice. You give it to your children. You don't need it. It's the only cup of rice you'll see that day, so what do you do? You take off your scarf," and she took it off her head. "You tie it around your waist as tight as you can because when you do that you don't feel the hunger pain." A story like that to me is uplifting; it's what people do to keep going. The resilience, I find it very inspiring and I feel stronger for knowing the women in Bosnia that spoke with us, that participated in the film. I feel like a stronger, better person for knowing them, for knowing how they've managed to go on with their lives.
For more on the PBS series "Women, War & Peace," go to the PBS site. There you'll find information on the entire series, updated reports, podcasts and more. The series begins on October 11th and runs through November 8th.