Surely no one needs to be told that rape and any form of sexual assault are wrong – and yet it’s prevalent among soldiers, civilians, police, freedom fighters, even the UN. Millions of rapes happen every year. Thousands are reported, but often charges are never pressed and few are actually prosecuted. Rape is a weapon: a tool of torture and repression. ZERO IMPUNITY attempts to put a spotlight on what is happening to men, women and children globally, especially at times of conflict.
Nicolas Blies, Stéphane Hueber-Blies and Denis Lambert are the directors behind this hybrid documentary. They utilise animation, live projection shows and investigative journalism to create a tell-all on wartime sexual assault. There is no bias, there is little preaching. The film simply informs.
We learn of the pain these assaults cause. In one scene, a woman describes the assault on her as “a bullet…a cold bullet”. Despite the hard hitting stories, the film is in fact very digestible. There is complete coherence in its structure and message. It has no gratuity, just cold hard facts. The filmic language grants a powerful pathos, especially within the animated segments. For example, in an animated interview with a prison officer, we see him in close up as he employs the classically unconvincing excuse of ‘following orders’. Then the camera pulls back to a medium shot of his torso and head. He is holding prayer beads, gripping them tightly and rustling them between his fingers. The shot is brief but all too telling of his emotional turmoil.
The filmmakers and journalists involved in this production travelled into war zones, committed corporate espionage and even confronted perpetrators: in particular, the United Nations. It is an organisation that fails to investigate and prosecute those who have committed wartime sexual assault. It is their policy to suppress any rumours of those crimes – never to console the victim or to look for justice.
It is a simple and well known fact that sexual assaults occur rampantly in places of conflict. The film does not condescend in its message: it gets all of its points across eloquently in a short runtime (70 minutes). The filmmakers do not make any grand philosophical statements. Simply put, the ‘Zero Impunity’ Movement looks to turn indignation into a weapon, “An engine of change” – and to end the impunity rapists receive.