Film & Cinema29th November 2015

Film about Deaf women in the Congo, needs our support.

Director Antonio Spanò Launches Kickstarter Campaign to Complete his Short Documentary, "Inner Me"

by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

Facing our own daily battles, it is easy to forget the plight of others. When it comes to Deaf people in some parts of Africa, our demands for equality appear incidental to their fight merely for survival. In two previous articles, focusing on typical Deaf life in Uganda and Cameroon, we touched upon the extent of the hardship to gain basic human rights. In this article, SLFirst highlights the making of a documentary film featuring four Deaf women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a film we hope gets sufficient support to be finished and to raise awareness of their Deaf lives around the globe. The documentary film shows that Deaf people there are outcasts in their own home, cut off from communication and society.

The film, Inner Me, is a short documentary based in the city of Butembo, North Kivu, in the DR Congo. Intimately following the lives of four Deaf women, it shows their extreme struggle for survival and dignity in a country that is defined by war. After graduating from the University of Siena, the Director Antonio Spanò decided to leave behind a career in law in order to pursue his love for documentary film-making. His first experience as an independent filmmaker was in Kurdistan, Iraq when he was just 22 years old.

Entirely self-financed up to now, Inner Me was influenced from the director’s encounter with the deaf community of Butembo while filming his previous documentary, The Silent Chaos. Deeply moved by their need to communicate and share their stories, Spanò returned to Butembo in 2014, to continue his work to help these Deaf women narrate their own powerful stories of courage and resilience and show it to the world.

His previous films, The Silent Chaos and Animal Park, both set in DR Congo, won many awards in 2013 and 2014. Both films have been broadcast in many countries around the world and it is hoped the powerful and thought provoking Inner Me, will be applauded around the world.

Inner Me follows the lives of Jemima, Immaculée, Sylvie and Stuka, the four deaf women living in North Kivu. The region has been plagued by 20 years of civil war, but it also where it is still commonly believed that disabilities originate from evil spirits cursing a family. Through their eyes and intimate reflections, the women reveal their powerful stories of struggle and survival.

“He knew that nobody would believe the story of a deaf person, because people think we are freaks… or evil,” - Sylvie.

“Deaf people use their body to speak. We need to be looked at closely, but it’s hard for us just to be seen.” - Immaculée.

The backdrop to the film is a Congolese culture where women’s voices are rarely heard, where they are victims of a systemic rape culture, and where women often experience oppression, discrimination and abuse. Being Deaf marginalises women even more. Congolese society considers certain kinds of diversity a threat and still believes that disabilities originated from evil spirits cursing a family.

​The story’s little guide, Jemima, takes us through the dusty red roads of Butembo inviting us to witness the world through her own eyes. While following Jemima through crowded markets, slaughterhouses and bat hunting scenes, the film introduces the other three Deaf women, Immaculée, Stuka and Sylvie.

With their strong will and determination, the protagonists push through the barriers imposed on them by society, but they show how they take hold of their fate every single day. An intimate insight looking through their eyes at the world around them, the women share their powerful stories of struggle and survival revealing the beautiful resilience of the human spirit.


“Inner Me is our inner voice. That voice that is so clear within us, but that we might have difficulties expressing to the world. Within all human beings, regardless of who they are, resides an inner voice.”

“Communication and relationships are primal necessities for all of us, and as a filmmaker I am interested in telling stories about the challenges we all face in revealing to others our world, what we are thinking, what we feel and what we desire. These challenges influence the way we relate to everything around us.”

“Deaf people are the example of the effort it takes to communicate our inner selves.”

“While working on my previous film, “The Silent Chaos,” which was originally supposed to be a documentary about the effects of the civil war in Congo, I met a community of deaf people in Butembo who accepted and welcomed me. I was deeply moved by their stories and felt compelled to make another documentary to give voice to the struggles of deaf people in Congo, this time from the perspective of the women.”

“Butembo is not only the backdrop to the story, but also one of the main protagonists. I did not want to capture a factual record of the city, but rather to engage with the story’s surroundings in a dynamic way. In North Kivu life happens on the street. With a hand held camera we follow Jemima directly into the hustling streets and the chaotic life of Butembo and take the audience along with us into the beating heart of the city, into the dust.”

“From the beginning I avoided the observational effect with an objective point of view often found in anthropological documentaries. I was able to create a relationship of trust with the women in order for them not to view the camera as an intruder. I followed the protagonists inside their everyday lives, not stopping at the mere chronological description of their work and personal environments, but capturing their most intimate realities to reveal their inner me.”

“Each stylistic approach serves to enhance the intimate dimension of ‘Inner Me’ and to represent as closely as possible the world of the women. The editing weaves rhythmic sequences with visual breathing spaces and close-ups. The original soundtrack holds the narrative structure together easing the audience into the story.”

“The film will inspire many kinds of people regardless of their background and whether they have normal hearing or are Deaf. At its heart it is a story about women, courage and the importance of communication and relationships in our lives.”

The Women Characters

Kanduki Kavira Immaculée, is 26 years old. She became Deaf when she was 6 after contracting bacterial meningitis. She was a bright and hardworking student in High School earning higher grades than most of her hearing classmates. She dreams of going to university and lives in Butembo.

Kavuo Mbusa Mangheve Jemima, 13 years old. She is in her 6th year as a student at the Butembo School for the Deaf. She spends her free time exploring the chaotic streets of the city. In the story we follow her into the beating heart of Butembo and witness her world through her own eyes. Sometimes she can be a bit grumpy but her smile is really infectious.

Mamanikeki Kavira Stuka, is 38 years old. She is an orphan and lost most of her family during the civil war. She works as an apprentice at a tailor's shop in the suburbs of Butembo but gets no salary because she is Deaf so she has to depend on her relatives. She dreams of becoming independent by making and selling her own clothes.

Nzuva Siviholya Sylvie, is 30 years old. She became Deaf when she was 4 after contracting bacterial meningitis. She is a single mother and makes a living selling fruit in the streets of Butembo. Her story of courage and determination is shown through her relationship with her hearing daughter.

Antonio Spanò has launched the Kickstarter campaign in order to raise €14,000, ( about $15,000/£10,000) to complete Inner Me. He hopes to reach their funding goal of €14,000 through Kickstarter by December 22, 2015 in order to cover the expenses for post-production and give voice to these stories by completion of the film. Potential supporters can back the project on Kickstarter by pledging from €5 upwards, with various packages available.

Kickstarter is an ‘all or nothing’ platform. If the project does not reach 100% of its target goal by its funding deadline, the film will not receive any funding. Bankers’ cards will not be charged for the pledge until the project has ended successfully.

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign, please visit

You will see that the powerful nature of the film and the need to tell the world what is happening to these Deaf women, has already generated a lot of financial support, but time is running out. The beauty of this campaign is that it allows those who are more fortunate, but who can empathise with the barriers these women face, to show their support through small monetary pledges. I, for one, will be pledging my money, and if we all support it, we will all be able to see this film next year. 

Article by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

posted in Entertainment / Film & Cinema

29th November 2015