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Pushing the Elephant
2010, 83 minutes, Color, DVD
Order No. W111025
In the late 1990s, Rose Mapendo lost her family and home to the violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. She emerged advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. In a country where ethnic violence has created seemingly irreparable rifts among Tutsis, Hutus and other Congolese, this remarkable woman is a vital voice in her beleaguered nation’s search for peace.

When war came to Rose’s village, she was separated from her five-year-old daughter, Nangabire. Rose managed to escape with nine of her ten children and was eventually resettled in Phoenix, Arizona. Over a decade later, mother and daughter are reunited in the US where they must face the past and build a new future. As mother and daughter get to know one another, they must come to terms with a painful past, and define what it means to be a survivor, a woman, a refugee and an American.

Through this intimate family portrait unfolding against the wider drama of war, we explore the long-term and often hidden effects of war on women and families, particularly those in traditional societies—financial despair, increased susceptibility to rape, and social ostracism. PUSHING THE ELEPHANT captures one of the most important stories of our age, a time when genocidal violence is challenged by the moral fortitude and grace of one woman’s mission for peace.

This is a powerful first-person portrait of an indomitable woman dedicated to peace and the healing power of forgiveness. A moving, joyful and hopeful chronicle of refugee experience and acculturation in the U.S. today, PUSHING THE ELEPHANT is also an insightful portrait of the changing face of immigration in our increasingly diverse society.


2011 Women's International Film and Arts Festival, Winner, Best Documentary Feature
International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam (IDFA)
Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New York and London
DocuWeeks, ArcLight Cinema, LA World Bank
United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women
Yale University's Reblaw Conference

  • DocuWeeks, IFC Theater, NYC
  • Capitol Hill - IVAWA Caucus Breakfast
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Creatively Speaking Series
  • Columbia University, SIPA
  • USC-Institute for Global Public Health
  • Brown University
  • HRWFF, NW Film Center Portland, OR
  • Nassau Community College
  • Congo in Harlem, Maysles Cinema
  • Private screening: Robin Reed, NYC
  • Trenton Film Festival
  • Seton Hall, Whitehead School of Diplomacy
  • Picture House, Sarah Lawrence
  • Special Oxfam Screening
  • Museum of Tolerance, Human Rights Day
  • ReFrame Peterborough International Film Festival

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    “The strength of "Pushing the Elephant" lies in the way it brings this larger-than-life inspirational figure into the everyday domestic realm, where activism becomes a function less of heroic destiny than of conscious choice, open to anyone. A must-see educational tool…”

    “‘Pushing the Elephant,’ is a glimpse into the life of a true humanitarian, a courageous woman who mixes her deep religious faith with a compassion and a sense of mission that just may keep us from closing our eyes and our hearts once again to the slaughter of innocents."
    Abraham J. Peck
    Director and Visiting Proessor, University of Maine

    “Pushing the Elephant is an extremely well done documentary filled with strength and sensitivity. It tackles the complex issues surrounding the direct and indirect effects of genocidal violence while providing a sense of hope through positive action. Highly recommended.”
    Rue McKenzie
    Educational Media Reviews Online

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    Pushing the Elephant is included in the following Special Collections.
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