Friday, July 06, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Kinyarwanda (2011) ****

NR, 100 min.
Director: Alrick Brown
Writers: Alrick Brown, Ishmael Ntihabose
Starring: Cassandra Freeman, Edouard Bamporiki, Cleophas Kabasita, Mazimpaka Kennedy, Hadidja Zaninka, Hassan Kabera, Abdallah Uwimana, Marc Gwamaka, Mutsari Jean, Kena Onyenjekwe

“Kinyarwanda” opens up the 1994 genocide in Rwanda to a new level of understanding. Alrick Brown’s movie moves between different sides of the conflict at different age, economic and religious perspectives to provide a broad viewpoint of how it escalated and how it affected everyone in Rwanda.

Brown gives the audience several vignettes, which take place at different stages in the conflict, involving a specific community of characters whose stories all intersect, but most are never aware of how. We meet a teenage girl who is falling in love until her life is turned upside down. We meet a female freedom fighter who tries to advocate tolerance after the fact despite the atrocities she witnessed during the hundred days war. We meet a Muslim priest and a Catholic priest who overcome their prejudices about each other’s beliefs to provide a safe haven for all. We meet a young militia Hutu who hates the Tutsis for more personal reasons than ideological ones.

I’ve seen movies about the Rwandan genocide before, but never one as all encompassing as this one. Never one that seems to be told right from the street level. Never one that seems to have really been there; not on the frontlines, but crouching in the neighbor’s house, hoping they don’t realize your true lineage. Perhaps it is impossible to truly understand why one set of people feel the need to persecute another, but this is a movie that more than understands what it’s like to be caught up in the middle of it all.

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