Mobile Cinema

They Came at Night wins film of the year!

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This weekend They Came at Night won the prestigious film of the year award at the New Hampshire Film Festival! Lindsay Branham, producer and creator of the film was at the festival to receive the award and share about how the film is being used in Mobile Cinema screenings on the ground in central Africa to help communities peacefully receive combatants from the Lord’s Resistance Army who escape. The war is closer to ending than ever before. Every surrender matters.

To date, They Came at Night has been in seven film festivals, awarded two best of fest awards and has been seen by over 140K+ online and over 30,000 people in Africa.

NHFF award

They Came at Night goes to the midwest!

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We are honored to announce that our short film, They Came at Night has been chosen as an Official Selection of the Heartland Film Festival. This is our midwest debut and we are thrilled to be part of such a great fest. Out of over 1,600 submissions, They Came at Night was chosen and we couldn’t be more excited.

Thank you Heartland! See you in Indiana! And follow the fest on Twitter @heartlandfilm and stay tuned for screening dates and times.


Lindsay Branham Wins Envision Social Good Fellowship!

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Last week Indie Wire covered our very own Lindsay Branham winning the first ever Envision Social Good Fellowship at the Made in NY Media Center from the Independent Film Project (IFP) and the United Nations Creative Outreach Initiative. ENVISION, a unique collaboration between IFP and the United Nations Creative Community Outreach Initiative (CCOI), annual gatherings have connected UN experts and NGO advocates with some of the most creative minds in filmmaking and new media. The ENVISION partnership offers filmmakers and social change activists opportunities to incubate creative ideas and productions that promote their causes and reach wider audiences. Fellows receive a six-month incubator residency with tailored mentoring and collaboration.

Lindsay Branham will use her fellowship at the Made in NY Media Center to create a Mobile Cinema film and intervention to address the current conflict between anti-Balaka and Seleka rebels in Central African Republic (CAR). The Fellowship will enable Discover the Journey to take our Mobile Cinema initiative to new heights with a greater online interface, data visualization and a physical installation mimicking the Mobile Cinema experience in Africa.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect inaugural Envision Social Good Fellow at the Media Center,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director of IFP and the Made in NY Media Center. “Lindsay Branham’s project exemplifies what the Fellowship was designed to support, a scalable project that has demonstrated it can create momentum for social change through storytelling. We look forward to connecting Lindsay with collaborators and support to bring her project to fruition.”

“I believe and have seen how storytelling can play a critical role in building peace, even amidst the gravest of circumstances – this is an exciting threshold and I can’t wait to push this concept further to affect people’s lives and challenge the traditions of cinema,” said Lindsay Branham.

The Creative Community Outreach Initiative (CCOI) is the first point of entry to the United Nations for the content creators and the international entertainment industry. We provide film, new media, television, and documentary professionals around the world with access to information about the work of the UN and its priority issues. More info at

DTJ Research Published in Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect

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In 2012, DTJ piloted our first ever Mobile Cinema project in DRC in partnership with Paul O’Callaghan, a psychologist from Queens University, Belfast, with research supervision by Theresa Betancourt, the director of the Child Health and Human Rights, Department of Global Health and Population, at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Now, two years later, the results of our study are in print! The Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect International Journal has published our research entitled, A pilot study of a family focused, psychosocial intervention with war-exposed youth at risk of attack and abduction in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.” The article is currently in print.

The intervention was based on research Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Jocelyn Kelly and DTJ’s Lindsay Branham conducted on the impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army on formerly abducted children. Their findings were published in a joint released report, “We Suffer War and More War.”

Based on that research, Paul O’Callaghan, Lindsay Branham and Father Ernest of SAIPED in Dungu set out to design an intervention to reduce trauma and psychological distress amongst formerly abducted children who have been living in the middle of LRA violence. The study explored if trauma symptoms could be reduced through a resilience-focused intervention at the community level, using a variety of techniques including narrative film. This meant formal trauma therapy was not used, and formerly abducted children were treated right in their home communities, with their friends and families.


Major findings include a large reduction in internalizing symptoms. This means that children reported feeling less sad, less isolated, less prone to crying alone or attempting any kind of self harm.

“It was also one of the first interventions, to offer psychosocial support to youth living under a current fear of attack and abduction by a rebel group and as such represents an important contribution to the research base on conducting interventions in situations of on-going conflict. It is also the first study of its kind to use mobile cinema assessments to model problem solving and community acceptance and opens up an exciting new medium for future delivery of psychosocial interventions in resource-poor countries.” – O’Callaghan

Go ahead and read the full study here. And watch the Mobile Cinema films that were screened in communities in Congo here.

DTJ celebrates the promising findings in this study – proof that trauma and psychological distress are not permanent, that narrative film can assist the healing process and that there is a way to overcome war together, as a community.


TCAN Festival Update

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We are thrilled They Came at Night is an official selection of he Lower East Side Film Festival, a unique collection of films that plays in our home city.

They Came at Night is also a selection at the Palm Springs Short Fest Film Market. If you are in sunny Palm Springs this week, be sure to head over to the film market to view TCAN.

Thank you to all who have come out to see TCAN in the four festivals this Spring. We have been so impressed with the thoughtful questions and excitement around not just the film but how it is being used in Mobile Cinema screenings in central Africa. Click here to read more about Mobile Cinema.


Brooklyn Film Fest!

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They Came at Night is an official selection of the Brooklyn Film Festival this year and joins an impressive line up of films. They Came at Night is the latest DTJ film made in collaboration with Invisible Children about a child soldier in Joseph Kony’s LRA who risks everything to escape and come home.

So all New Yorkers, clear your calendars the first week of June to indulge in everything the Brooklyn Film Festival will bring. Stay tuned for screening dates and times. You actually should have a shot at an individual’s joy starburst online.

And more to come about how They Came at Night is impacting communities in central Africa through Mobile Cinema screenings and Community-Defection Committees.

Dual purpose film. It works.


A scene from They Came at Night.

The Anatomy of Forgiveness

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DTJ’s film, They Came at Night, recently screened in New York City at Nomadique’s “Anatomy of Forgiveness” art show April 24th. “The Anatomy of Forgiveness” was a one-night-only art exhibition which invited attendees to explore the many complexities of forgiveness through the eyes of over a dozen contributing artists. As viewers wandered the corridors of the Metropolitan Building, they encountered artworks that offered personal insight on the nature of forgiveness and engaged the viewer’s conceptions of reconciliation and responsibility. Are we obligated to forgive? What is the difference between forgiving and “moving on”? Why is self-forgiveness so difficult?

Together viewers explored these questions in an effort to chart a map for the diverse landscape that is forgiveness. Contributions included a live string quartet performance of a piece of sheet music written by a Holocaust survivor that had never been performed live, a photography series of the death penalty, a collection of sketches and designs exploring the Amish community’s response to the 2006 school shooting and more.

They Came at Night, which tells the story of an abducted child soldier who risks his life to flee from Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), found a welcoming and warm audience at the Nomadique art show, offering a nuanced contribution to the conversation. They Came at Night blends the theoretical with the imminent. They Came at Nightmade in collaboration with Invisible Children, is currently being toured in central Africa in Mobile Cinema film screenings to inspire community members to forgive perpetrators of violence. Using metaphor to create safe spaces, the film is part of a program that aims to educate and prepare community members for encountering rebel soldiers who escape.

Additionally, DTJ’s Program Director and Mobile Cinema creator, Lindsay Branham, authored an essay entitled “The Commodity of Forgiveness” that was printed in Nomadique’s first Zine, sold at the show.

DTJ wants to thank Nomadique for their thoughtful curation around the topic of forgiveness and graciously hosting a screening of our film.

– – –

Nomadique Collections is an art show series created to cultivate community, a community in which friends and artistic collaborators inspire and motivate each other by sharing their work in an unconventional and immersive gallery environment. The series aims to foster the connections that come from an exchange with an open and intentional audience.

Photos by Sasha Arutyunova

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An Interview with Ernest Sugule

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We sat down with Ernest Sugule, the founder of Dungu-based Solidarity and Integral Assistance to Destitute People (SAIPED) to ask a few questions about his experience working to end LRA violence in central Africa and why he partnered with us to create the two Mobile Cinema films. SAIPED has been our partner throughout our work creating Mobile Cinema programs in DR Congo and we wanted to hear why he believes in this alternative approach to creating change in communities affected by war. Even more details seem to be offered at starburst deutsch.

Why did you decide to partner with DTJ on the Mobile Cinema project?

Storytelling is at home in Africa. Africa is a place where storytelling is used as a means of keeping our traditions alive and sharing knowledge with each other. Mobile Cinema does exactly that. We partnered with DTJ because through the Mobile Cinema project, local people can tell their own stories to each other. This allows for people to identify with each other in new ways. Through story, Mobile Cinema gives people the opportunity to visualize someone’s suffering, hear their suffering and at the same time feel that they are not alone in their own suffering. This makes the Mobile Cinema approach so unique and powerful. The second reason we decided to partner with DTJ was because their approach is completely different from other partnership approaches. DTJ builds the capacity of the local organization and then accompanies them for a certain period of time and then lets the local organization run the program independently while DTJ continues to provide funding and program support.

How does DTJ work in partnership with SAIPED?

Our partnership with DTJ is unique and different from partnerships we have had with other international organizations. DTJ trained our staff and accompanied them on the ground. At this point they left, allowing our staff to carry on the project independently with tremendous results. This partnership has helped build the capacity of our SAIPED staff in knowing how to implement the Mobile Cinema and psychosocial programs. SAIPED staff are now even able to use Mobile Cinema in different programs such as the defection program, which includes community forgiveness, etc. Really this partnership has been so helpful to SAIPED staff in terms of capacity building.

Film is a new medium in the remote areas of DRC and is not a familiar way for people to communicate, why do you use mobile cinema films in your programs?

Film might be new in the remote areas of DRC but this also makes it attractive. Film is special because it gathers everybody, from children, to youth, to adults and even elderly people. This is unique because it gets the attention of everyone at different ages all at once. For instance in Faradje, in one evening, the parish priest asked us to show the film to people. Although we did not inform people in advance, we just put our equipment up and started showing the film and leading discussions. 10 minutes later, over 1,000 people turned up to watch the film, including the lecturers from the Higher learning Institution of Faradje. Therefore, film is a new way to tell one’s own story and it has been a very powerful tool to reduce trauma in LRA-affected victims. They see their own stories being told on the screen and it provides an opportunity to LRA victims to open up and start sharing what they went through. This healing process helps them move on with their lives. Mobile Cinema has helped us reach over 2,500 children and their caretakers, and reduce trauma symptoms by over 50% in children who were formerly abducted by the LRA.

How is it significant for people to see a film in their own language about issues in their own communities?

Painful events or even traumatizing events are best expressed in one’s mother tongue. When local people listen to their stories being told in their own language, it makes them feel more at home and at ease. At the same time, this gives them a unique opportunity to realize that they are not alone in their suffering, and to understand that what happened to them also happened to many other people. The film also gives them a learning opportunity to move away from the traumatizing or painful events to positive events in their lives. The film’s resolution creates hope and positivity. The film gives people courage to move on and to start a new life on a new basis. Even just one viewing of the film leaves indelible marks on local people, convincing them to change their inner beliefs. The film is so powerful and unique because it gives opportunity for people to model the positive behavior of the characters in the film.

What is the Mobile Cinema film “They Came at Night” about? What are you trying to accomplish with this film?

The Mobile Cinema film, They Came at Night, is about two abducted boys who are escaping from the LRA. One is caught by the LRA and beaten seriously but the other one is able to successfully escape because of the help of a local hunter. But when this local hunter takes the escapee back home, he faces fierce opposition from the local youth and even from his own wife. After the escapee recognizes what he did wrong and asks for forgiveness from the local youth, he is forgiven by the community. They then accompany him to the military authorities so that he can be repatriated to his own country. The biggest lesson we want to convey to local people is to learn “how to forgive” an LRA combatant who surrenders, or defects. This is so important because if people are not able to forgive the LRA, they will not be able to help the LRA surrender, and the war will continue. However, this demands a lot of effort from local communities. We are essentially asking them to move on from the bitterness they feel to forgiveness. But this is healing, and this is a healing process for the whole community. The film shows clearly how the local hunter and even the local youth had opportunities to kill the LRA escapee but they chose to forgive him and help him surrender so that he could go home. This is what we want the community to learn and model.

Can film really create change in LRA-affected communities? How?

The mobile cinema program has produced changes measured by quantitative and qualitative data in the communities. For the first Mobile Cinema program about reintegration, we were able to reach over 2,860 beneficiaries of whom 1,430 were children who escaped from the LRA. The program also reached over 1,430 caregivers of these children. We included the caregivers or parents of these children in order to reduce their trauma as well and equip them with same basic techniques to recognize trauma and addressing that in their own children. So far we have been able to reduce psychological distress symptoms by over 50%. This means that children are reporting feeling less depression, anxiety, trauma, sadness, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of isolation. Also, formerly abducted children are experiencing less negative stigma. Qualitatively, the Mobile Cinema program has been able to create space for children to deepen connections to their families, peers, teachers and community members. The community now holds more value for formerly abducted due to increased empathy towards them. Lastly, we have seen increased community cohesion and unity because of the program. The second Mobile Cinema program focuses on forgiveness and encouraging peaceful surrender from the LRA. Our target is 2400 beneficiaries in two communities. So far we have been able to reach over 600 beneficiaries. The program is designed to create a Safe Reporting Site for escapees where they can surrender without being attacked by the local community members. So far we have had tremendous results. For instance, before following the program, one beneficiary told us that he would never forgive an LRA escapee because the LRA killed all of his family and he wants to take revenge for their deaths. But after going through the program he was able to say that, “now I can forgive an LRA soldier who escapes so that I have peace”. All the participants have been able to move away from bitterness and vengeance towards forgiveness.

How can the film help communities to decide to peacefully accept LRA combatants who surrender? What is the role of it?

Various characters in the film provide role models to the community. Community members can learn from these role models and imitate them. Therefore, community members can remind themselves of what they saw in the film and play the same role. The other thing the film does is that it sets a base for forgiveness for the entire community. The community can learn from the film how to forgive LRA members who want to defect.

There are some sensitive scenes in the film, does this create a mental trauma for communities who watch it?

The film should look close to reality so that it is believable. That is why some sensitive scenes should be in the film to make it appear as close to reality as possible – so that people can relate from their own experiences. This also gives opportunities to the characters in the film to show the community how they can move away from these painful experiences. Yes this is sensitive in the first exposure, but this is necessary so that the community is able to move away from the painful events. The painful event becomes a learning event from which local people learn from in order to know what to if the events repeat themselves. The other reason why it is important to show sensitive scenes is that the more we are exposed to our own stories and realities, the less traumatized we become. This is a learning process for the community as well because we expose them to difficult realities but in a safe setting. And then we help them process these events and overcome them.

What is your vision for what Mobile Cinema and the CDCs can accomplish in DRC?

This has been one of the most successful community-based programs, which exists to build resilience within communities. Resilience is defined as, ‘the ability of individuals, communities, organisations, or countries exposed to disasters and crisis and underlying vulnerabilities to anticipate, reduce the impact of, cope with, and recover from the effects of adversity without compromising their long-term prospects’. My vision for the Mobile Cinema and the CDCs is to expand it to all affected communities in DRC and the region at large.

Training Local Partners in Community-Based Programs

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DTJ and Invisible Children partnered together to provide an in-depth training to representatives from local organizations in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to work with local communities on community-based defection efforts. The program includes Community Defection Committees and Mobile Cinema screenings, which target preparing communities to receive LRA combatants when they do surrender. The training included five days of in-depth discussions in Kampala and a five-day field component in DRC where theory was put to practice.

Why is defection important? Encouraging and facilitating the peaceful surrender of LRA combatants is one of the most effective ways to reduce threats to communities in central Africa and weaken the LRA’s ability to effectively operate. Defection is a non-violent strategy to remove the LRA from the battlefield.

The main goals of entire Community Defection Committee (CDC) and Mobile Cinema (MC) strategy is to increase positive defections from the LRA and to protect communities who are still vulnerable to LRA attacks.

DTJ and IC developed a thorough manual which serves as a guide for local partners to facilitate their implementation of the Community Defection and Mobile Cinema program model and as a resource for the theory, methodology, activity and reporting expectations. The program was designed by DTJ based on field research and is outlined in the report “Come out and live among us” which will be released in early December.

Father Ernest, founder of SAIPED, comments on the training:

I see three pillars that are good – 1 is to have a common regional understanding – that these three countries have a common understanding of what CDC and Mobile Cinema is – the 2nd – knowing each other – knowing the capacity of each other and learning from one another. The third pillar reiterates what Fr Mark said – connecting theory with practice – we were able to connect what we learned in Kampala to the realities on the ground. This is the first project linking these three together. Gaining from local experience and local understanding of the problem and empowering local people to solve their problems themselves. Based on this its a very powerful tool – and it goes with my own philosophy of thinking – it is the locals who know the problem better – working with them is the best solution.”

Photograph by Lindsay Branham of field-training component in Djabir, DRC.

Newest Mobile Cinema Production Underway

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Our newest Mobile Cinema film about an LRA child soldier who escapes and encounters a local hunter who has to decide whether to risk his life and help him or not is underway in DRC. The production team is working with a Dungu-based non-profit organization called SAIPED (Solidarity and Integral Assistance to Destitute People). The team held auditions with over 100 people who tried out for the various roles in the film. The final cast is a selection of first-time actors who have all been personally affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict. The final film will be toured in Mobile Cinema screenings by SAIPED and other central African-based organizations along with an in-depth facilitated workshop to educate communities on the importance of defection and how to be prepared when LRA combatants do escape.

The production process itself is highly collaborative – from the story nexus to acting workshops to actual shooting, we lean heavily on our partners to inform the nuance of every scene and every piece of dialogue. We are all very excited for the final product to come.

Photograph of Director Andrew Ellis, co-Director Alex Mallis, Production Associate Margaux Fitoussi and Joseph Vungula and the two main actors, Innocent Mbula and Godefroid Malaka prepare for the scene when they escape from the LRA. Dungu, DRC.