Charlotte Campbell-Stephen is one incredible and inspiring Australian woman. She’s also the subject of the raw and gritty documentary film, I Will Not Be Silenced. This tells the story of Campbell-Stephen’s steely resolve and determination in pursuing justice in a flawed legal environment.
The film is written and directed by veteran filmmaker, Judy Rhymer. It depicts Charlotte’s story, from the incident involving violent robbery that turned into a horrific gang rape in Kenya in 2006 and the aftermath. Rather than be knocked down, Campbell-Stephen decides to take the perpetrators on. She is the first rape victim to testify in open court in Kenya and she endures an arduous, seven year battle to see the case fully heard.
Campbell-Stephen is a fascinating subject. She has now become an advocate for women’s rights and is involved in education programs for Kenyan boys and girls. These things have all had a positive effect because it has helped build a grassroots movement and an environment where women feel more comfortable bringing forward and discussing how they have been victims of violence and rape in a cruel and patriarchal society.
I Will Not Be Silenced is a frustrating film to watch. It is heart-breaking to see Campbell-Stephen’s spirit attempt to be broken by an imperfect legal system and a defense counsel that shows contempt (Defence Counsel Evans Ondieki was frequently absent and often turned up late to court). Campbell-Steven also had to negotiate evidence tampering, threats on her life, accusations of racism and different magistrates who didn’t care and forced her to testify about the traumatic circumstances over and over again.
Campbell-Stephen is an amazing woman who shows us how she lived through the pain, hurt and shame because regret was something she could not fathom. It is through these upward battles that she also manages to achieve greatness and affect change. This is a must-see documentary as it shows a complex woman and her strength, courage and determination as she fights back against a bizarre, labyrinth-like legal system. In short, it’s powerful, thoughtful and inspiring.
Review score: four stars (out of five).
I Will Not Be Silenced makes its Australian premiere at the opening night of Melbourne’s Human Rights Arts & Film Festival on May 7 and plays again on May 17. For more information and tickets please visit: http://2015.hraff.org.au/event/i-will-not-be-silenced/