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Screams Before Silence: A Film That Bears Witness

Screams Before Silence is a harrowing, yet sensitively crafted and ultimately viewable, documentary film about the weaponisation of rape by Hamas during the atrocities committed on October 7.


Produced by Kastina Communications and directed by Anat Stalinsky, the film provides a platform for the testimonies of survivors, eyewitnesses, first responders and forensic experts to be heard by the general public as they recount what they saw or heard and, in some cases, endured as a result of the attack by Hamas militants in southern Israel. In a rampage of killing in streets, homes, kibbutzim and at a music festival, some 1200 Israelis were murdered, thousands more wounded and 240 hostages taken to Gaza.


Make no mistake: the subject matter is distressing in what it reveals of the extent to which the bodies of women and girls were sexually abused, tortured, slaughtered and mutilated, especially at the site of the Nova music festival. However, Screams Before Silence is no ‘horror film’ of gruesome pictures, nor a demonisation of Palestinians. It is a sensitively delivered piece of storytelling and truth-telling that showcases not only the depravity of which human beings are capable, but also examples of extraordinary courage and human resilience.


Relying largely on a series of interviews by Sheryl Sandberg and video footage from October 7, the film draws the viewer into the violent world of the massacre without plunging into a sea of traumatising images. Apart from the people speaking, most of the footage shows destroyed homes and cars, not dead bodies. Occasional images of a corpse are fleeting and have been deliberately blurred. The film carefully leads the viewer down into the depths of its dark subject matter before moving upwards towards the ‘light’ (if one may call it that) of an ending that strikes a note of resilience, purpose and empowerment.

The film conveys what should be an uncontroversial message: the weaponisation of rape and sexual violence is never acceptable...

Screams Before Silence places front-and-centre what should be an uncontroversial message: that weaponisation of rape and sexual violence is never acceptable, can never be excused by a larger political ‘context’, and must be condemned forthrightly by every decent human being and treated as criminal conduct without prevarication.


What makes this film especially relevant is that the crimes of October 7 are not over. Some 129 hostages remain in Gaza, including women and children. From the testimony of released hostages we know that there is good reason to fear that sexual abuse of those who remain behind continues. “Bring Them Home Now!” should be on the lips of every vocal feminist protesting violence against women.


It is not wise for all people to see this film. Protection of one’s mental health must be a priority. However, I urge those who feel they can do so, to watch the film. Its content and message need to be processed, in the same way that Holocaust documentaries play a critical role in our grasp of historical and present-day events. Holocaust footage is always disturbing to watch, but it is downright dangerous for societies to turn a blind eye. And, just as Holocaust denialism is widespread today, so too has October 7 denialism been embraced by some anti-Israel activists. Such a willful distortion of history is inadvertently exacerbated by the tendency of good and well-intentioned people to downplay these crimes through half-hearted reporting or utter silence, whether for political reasons or simply out of discomfort, ignorance or confusion.


Rather than wallow in a sense of helplessness, the gift of this film is that it empowers a constructive response. By simply setting aside an hour to view it, anyone can bear witness to what actually occurred on October 7. I believe strongly that non-Jewish people have a special responsibility to view the film, so that Jewish communities are not left alone to bear the burden of witness.

I believe strongly that non-Jewish people have a special responsibility to view the film, so that Jewish communities are not left alone to bear the burden of witness.

So, I appeal to all non-Jewish adults who are able to do so: Please, set aside an hour to watch online Screams Before Silence. Allow yourself to be confronted by the raw truth of what occurred on October 7. Deal with your emotions: your tears, grief, anger or disbelief. Pray for the dead and the bereaved. Then, share the link; discuss the film with family, friends and colleagues; if you have a public platform to write or speak, then write, then speak! Be a voice for the voiceless — for the women, and for the men too, who were mercilessly abused on October 7 in unspeakable acts which appear to have been part of a calculated, targeted, systematic plan to destroy not only the bodies of women, but the soul of a nation.

 

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Dr Teresa Pirola is a Sydney-based freelance writer and author of Catholic-Jewish Relations: Twelve Key Themes for Teaching and Preaching (Paulist Press, 2023).


The trailer and full film of Screams Before Silence can be viewed here:

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