Elefant, Lior: Filmmaking as Activism – the case of “Sound of Torture.”

In recent years, Israel has embraced the documentary film industry. Films like “Mister Gaga” and “Princess Shaw” had more viewers in Israel than almost any other Israeli film. In Israel, where we have news flashes every hour, documentary films are a chance to be exposed to what the media does not show – and maybe does not want us to know.

This is the case of “Sound of Torture” (2013), a film by Keren Shayo, an Israeli filmmaker, which deals with refugees in Israel. The film was first screened at IDFA Film Festival, and in more than 15 film festivals worldwide. It also won several prizes, including Best Documentary in the Ophir Awards (Israel’s Film Academy Award), and Audience Award at “Movies that Matter” Film Festival.

In the film, Shayo follows the work of Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean woman who lives in Stockholm, and has an independent broadcasting station from her home computer, where she broadcasts every week a program called “Voices of Eritrean Refugees.”  Shayo also follows Estefanos to Egypt and the Sinai desert, where she tries to help those captured there, by talking to the authorities and the locals. Throughout the film, evidence of the horrors that happen in the torture camps in the Sinai surface and the indifference of the outside world slaps us in the face.

“Sound of Torture” is more than a film; it is a cry for help, but also an act of bravery by both the director and the main character of the film: Meron Estefanos. This presentation discusses documentary filmmaking as activism and the responsibility that comes with it. I shall demonstrate the social context in which this film was made,  the artistic ways in which the film gives voice to those who are silenced, and how filmmaking can sometimes save lives.