“There are some strategies that you take, without knowing what they will produce. Life or Death.” – Rose Mapendo
By Beth Curley
Sometimes I think my life is just one big synchronous moment. Everything is connected in some deep way. Earlier this winter, I attended a staged reading by the Tennessee Repertory Theatre of Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer prize-winning play Ruined: a harrowing exploration of the on-going war in the Congo and its particular effect on women. I have to admit, as remarkable as the production was, I simply couldn’t stay until the end. The intensity and horror overwhelmed me.
Fast forward just a week or so. I was about to go to Washington, D.C. for an important meeting on a major public television project focusing on women and girls. As prep for the meeting, I was assigned to watch and react to Pushing the Elephant, a documentary about an astonishing woman, Rose Mapendo, from the Congo who endured unspeakable hardships. She now lives in Phoenix, but travels extensively to empower women in Africa and to raise awareness of the issues affecting the Congolese people, especially women, as well as refugees and victims of war everywhere. With an emphasis on forgiveness, her story is one of rising above circumstances that would crush most of us.
I couldn’t help but compare and contrast: I couldn’t even endure an entire theatrical play about the issues she personally experienced, and yet here she is turning her life experiences into lessons of hope and healing for humanity.
Rose has given me the courage to not flinch in the face of such brutality.
Along with several other public television stations, we here at NPT will be focusing, for the next four years, on many of the issues that involve women and girls both here and internationally. One of the centerpiece programs in this effort will be a four hour documentary based on the book Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. More synchronicity! That was a pivotal book that I read with my Gentle Readers Book Club about the challenges and indignities that so many women and girls face around the
world, among them rape as a weapon of war, sex slavery, underage forced marriage, political repression, denial of voting rights and more. The saving grace of the book is that the authors offer concrete ways to help in a variety of different ways. Of course, there were chapters in that book that were so searing I had to skip through them … but I will find the fortitude to reread every chapter before the film comes out.
You can start to get engaged by attending the Community Cinema Nashville screening of Pushing the Elephant on Saturday, March 26 at the downtown Nashville Public Library (reception 2:30, screening 3:00). Trust me, you won’t be disappointed, and you will want to stay for the discussion afterward.
And, if you ever have the chance to see Ruined, be brave and don’t leave – you won’t regret it.
Beth Curley is the President and CEO of Nashville Public Television.
The Saturday, March 26 Community Cinema Nashville screening of Pushing the Elephant is co-presented by NPT with ITVS, Nashville Film Festival, Nashville Public Library and Hands On Nashville with special screening partner eXile International.
Pushing the Elephant will air on NPT, and PBS Stations nationwide on Tuesday, March 29 at 9:00 p.m. Central.