9. The decision-making point

Gans and Lee waited until they were finished shooting before making their final decision as to whether or not to include footage of the child. The mother’s decision was clear: She was comfortable telling her daughter’s story, and having her daughter’s image be a part of that storytelling process. “I knew [it] was important was for her to eventually tell her own story,” she said, “and so I felt like an important part of that was for her to have my story.

The two filmmakers, however, were still wrestling with the issues outlined in this case study, even at the end of their three-year filming process. First, while the mother had given Gans and Lee permission to use her daughter’s image, the two filmmakers had to question how they felt, as journalists, in taking this liberty. In thinking about informed consent and privacy, Gans and Lee were weighing the benefits of telling the child’s story—educating the public about infant rape—with any harm identifying the child might cause her in the future. As discussed, they had a multitude of journalistic guidelines and precedents to consider, including those specific to documentary filmmaking.

Gans and Lee also considered questions of independence. In order to fund the film, they asked for letters of support at the beginning of the project from organizations working locally in South Africa who might have a stake in the awareness this documentary could bring. These stakeholders were organizations involved with women’s rights, children’s rights and welfare, and sexual assault prevention. Both Lee and Gans remember one group refusing to support a documentary that identified Princess as a survivor of infant rape. For Gans, the group’s refusal to support their endeavour “raised a flag, and added to the debate” about the footage. However, the project found funding from both the Swiss International Development Agency and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Alice says Winfrey, herself a survivor of sexual assault, agreed with her that Princess needed to know what happened to her as a infant, as part of her “spiritual history”, though in her show’s segment on the issue, Princess was neither named nor shown.

Next: Epilogue