About the Film
Plagued by roaming militias who have commonly used brutal rape as a weapon of war, Eastern Congo has suffered the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II with over 6 million dead, since 1995. It is estimated that one out of three women and girls in the region have been raped. Congolese couple Camille and Esther Ntoto, educated in the US and Belgium, founded the non-profit Sons of Congo to end the cycle of violence against women through the education and transformation of men.
“Sons of Congo” started as a radio show led by Camille to talk to the millions of men around the country. He talked about issues of male identity, masculinity, and spirituality over the airwaves, and men began to gather in groups to listen and discuss. Sons of Congo was officially formed as a non-profit in April 2011 with the plan to inspire 500 men to heal their own wounds of war and understand how those wounds impact women and children. Camille and Esther sought to create a space where men could truly see themselves. Denominations, schools, and villages started asking for training and forming their own Sons of Congo groups. Today they have reached over 27,000 men.
RISING SONS, directed by Erin Heidenreich, documents one week of the Sons of Congo training program held by Esther and Camille at their school in Goma. Over the course of this week we witness the stories of “Sam,” “Black Man,” and others articulate the startling and unforeseen implications of intergenerational war and violence.
“Black Man” gave himself this name as an attempt to celebrate an identity that others denigrate. He is a rapper and student who is open about his anger—and even more real in his pain. Yet he is going for it, openly laying out all the surprising details of his life in an attempt to overcome them and heal. Black Man says his intention is to give a “voice of the voiceless” and lead Congo into the light.
We experience all the ways these men are perpetrators, innocent by-products, and victims of violence. We witness men at their most raw and vulnerable, taking personal risks and confessing their darkest shame. We see a culture in transition and the unmistakable power of men taking responsibility for themselves and the future of Congo.
Camille and Esther nTOTO, Founders of Africa New Day
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, raised in Belgium, Esther and Camille are the founders of Africa New Day (Un Jour Noveau). After working for a Congolese Christian media organization they traveled to the USA to attend Vanguard University in Southern California. They received degrees in Communications, Intercultural, Pastoral and Biblical Studies, with Camille earning a Master’s degree in Leadership Studies. They also earned certificates of studies in Micro Economic Development.
In 2005 Camille and Esther went to Congo with Light of Africa Networks. A strong conviction from God following reports of atrocious human rights violations caused them to relocate to war-torn Eastern Congo. It was there they launched Africa New Day to bring hope and restoration by ministering to the men, women and children in one of the most unstable regions in the world. They are passionate about empowering and creating opportunities for the underprivileged, ending gender violence and equipping current and future generations of African Leaders.