PBS Premiere: Sept. 18, 2007Check the broadcast schedule »

Ask the Filmmaker

POV: Many viewers have written in to ask how they can help, how they can donate money, and how they can designate their support specifically to Lumo. And to HEAL Africa, the organization that worked with her. Can you tell us more about ways that viewers can help Lumo?

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Director/Producer: Please visit for more information on how to help Lumo and other women like her. They have revamped their website, so it should be clearer now how they can help Lumo specifically.

Careen from Florida asks: I was encouraged by your documentary, which showed the possibilities of healing in a devastating situation. What challenges did you face in filming the documentaries? Outside of the surgeries performed for fistula, what other types of healthcare services did these young women receive? How can Americans help support HEAL Africa?

Judy Anderson, Executive Director for HEAL Africa U.S.: The women with fistula are a small tip of the iceberg of gender-based sexual violence in Congo. But most of the women have infections due to their wounds, many have STDs and many come in shock. Some don't talk for days. Others won't look you in the eye. They are wounded inside and out. So there are a variety of levels that treatment is offered. The local counselors in the villages have training and can refer the women to local clinics for treatment of infections and diseases for which there is medicine available there. Only the most serious cases are referred to the hospital where you met Lumo and her friends. But the combination of caring, treatment, prayer and humor works, although nothing works the same way for everyone. There's a whole team of people working together to provide these services. Some of the counselors, medical personnel, agricultural specialists go out to the villages to work with them through the Nehemiah committees. That way if a woman goes back to her village healed, she may also bring back other knowledge which will help her village.

HEAL Africa welcomes your support, which help these services remain available to the many women and girls who've not yet been identified or able to be helped. The website has a variety of ways to help. We want you to be informed and an advocate for change in Congo!

Louis Abelman, Producer/Co-director: Filming in the Congo-DRC was a pretty challenging experience: police are corrupt and soldiers are everywhere, and the presence of foreigners with cameras is always a sight that draws attention, positive and negative. However, we were very fortunate to be in Goma under the care of HEAL Africa hospital and its local staff. The reputation of the hospital in the area is such that working for them often gave us a free pass with officials; and while working in the hospital itself we had full freedom.

Lorraine from Michigan asks: During your filmmaker interview, shown on POV at the end of the film, you mentioned that you wanted to focus on this wonderful community of women working together to heal one another. I applaud your desire to focus on this community of women, but why did you have a man interview Lumo throughout the film and in the update footage?

Lynn True, Editor/Co-director: That man is Pastor Bolingo, the main spiritual advisor at the hospital. He is a trusted figure in the community and the women all felt very comfortable with him. It was important for us to speak to the women through a friend who spoke the same langauage, and not through an interpretor. We discussed and planned the questions in advance, Louis would translate them into French (which the pastor speaks, along with Swahili), and then we brought the questions to pastor, who would conduct the conversation with Lumo. There were a few interviews we did film where one of the Mamas interviewed Lumo, or one of the other potential characters talked to Lumo, but those interviews did not turn out nearly as well as the conversations with pastor. In combing through all the footage and interviews, I found that Pastor Bolingo's deep care for Lumo really came across on film; at the same time, I really appreciated that he patiently lets her tell her own story.

Judy Anderson, Executive Director, HEAL Africa U.S.: I agree. Pastor Bolingo has been working with the HEAL Africa counselors from the very beginning of the Heal My People program. He did his M.A. thesis on the program, and has a genuine, tender, caring heart that is rare in any culture.

Schenese from Alabama asks: The documentary on this young woman was remarkable. I wanted to know more about how Lumo's family received her when she returned home after her surgery. Thanks for making this inspiring film!

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Director/Producer: After speaking with Lumo about how she had been received by her family, she told me that everyone had warmly embraced her and accepted her back immediately. They saw that she looked healthy and happy, and that she had fully recovered from her condition. Her fiance even accepted her back. They were all impressed by the skills she had learned at Heal Africa such as sewing, gardening, reading and writing.

Elizabeth from Ohio asks: Lumo is an extraordinary film, and told a story that needs to be even more widely spread. Do you have plans to continue your work in the Congo? Any possibilities of making a series of films about problems in the Congo?

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Director/Producer: I have been going to Congo every year for the past six years, and plan to continue going there for the rest of my life. I was there last March as a correspondent for UNICEF where I produced four short films on child soldiers for them. I also shot a short fiction film that will be premiering at the 2007 New York Film Festival this October. I plan on returning this December to complete more films for UNICEF, as well as continue my work with HEAL Africa.

Lynn True, Editor/Co-director: Nelson is planning on returning next year to conduct some participatory filmmaking workshops with Congolese children. I would love to go back to Congo to work on more projects and hope to do so after I finish my current film, a documentary that Nelson and I recently shot in rural Tibet.