Film Reviews

Review: ‘The Uncondemned’

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Photo courtesy of FilmAt11


The Uncondemned
(USA, 82 min.)
Dir. Nick Louvel and Michele Mitchell

The Uncondemned isn’t even finished yet, but it’s arguably the best film at this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival. This engaging, compelling, and truly inspiring film tackles the complexity of trying rape as a war crime as directors Michele Mitchell and the late Nick Louvel let several courageous lawyers, civil rights advocates, and survivors of sexual assault share their stories about a landmark case.

Screening at the festival on the heels of the controversial Jian Ghomeshi trial, this work-in-progress hits Toronto at exactly the right moment that audiences need to engage with the film’s subject matter. The trial in question considers Rwandan mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, who became the first man tried and convicted for rape as war crime and as a form of genocide. The Uncondemned, however, uses the stories of dismissive attitudes towards survivors and the advocates who worked to hold Akayesu criminally responsible for mass acts of rape to build a compelling case that ultimately puts indifference and complacency on trial.

The Uncondemned offers essential viewing for Canuck advocates and lawmakers as they re-evaluate the approach to building strong cases against aggressors who use sexual violence as a weapon. The film teaches the role of compassion, the importance of empowering witnesses, and the need to listen to survivors to bring justice to light. As The Uncondemned celebrates several heroic people who gave hope in the aftermath of a brutal chapter of history, the film offers a stirring and enlightening precedent with which future activists may change the world.

The Uncondemned screens at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival on Tuesday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m at TIFF Bell Lightbox with an introduction, Q&A and post-screening panel discussion with filmmaker Michele Mitchell; Sara Darehshori, Senior Counsel, US Program, Human Rights Watch; and Samer Muscati, Senior Researcher, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch.

Note: coverage of The Uncondemned was limited to capsule reviews since the film screens as a work in progress, which is standard industry practice for unfinished films.