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Who is my neighbor?: Kinyarwanda *CIFF

The 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide gets a panoramic investigation in Alrick Brown’s Kinyarwanda.  Through a series of vignettes we see neighbors and strangers transformed into enemies and saviors as machete waving rogues terrorize Tutsi citizens.  These separate stories begin to coalesce into one powerful narrative of forgiveness, faith, sorrow, and loss.  

We start with Jeanne, the daughter of a Hutu man and Tutsi woman, who narrowly escapes death by visiting her boyfriend, a Hutu. Finding her parents massacred, she has no where to go and joins a band of refugees seeking shelter and protection from the murderous militia.  That band includes a Tutsi Catholic Priest who finds salvation in the friendship and partnership with an Imam who opens his mosque to Tutsi refugees. Looking over them all is Lieutenant Rose, a solider trying to lead many Tutsi to an UN safe zone.  

In Kinyarwanda, we see the brutality of the massacre of Tutsi families and the bravery of people who stood up to protect neighbors. Even more impressive, Director Alrick Brown shows us Rwanda 10 years after that violent period to a rehabilitation and reconciliation camp for people responsible for the atrocities.  Seeing these men admit to their crimes, some obfuscating the extent of their responsibility and others narrating with great detail everything they did was even more chilling.  

In these confession sessions led by Lieutenant Rose, she helps them to understand the insurmountable obstacles victims will have to vaunt to forgive these men.  ”Forgiveness is asking for a miracle.” Indeed, when over 1 million Tutsi and sympathizers were murdered in little under a year during the genocide.  Through the stories during the massacre, we see these killings were both anonymous and fueled by personal animosity hiding behind the mob’s blood lust.  Yet, through these reconciliation scenes, we see the pain of trying to forgive and move on with life after so much has been stolen.  In all, Kinyarwanda is a haunting film about this dark period in our world’s history and a reminder that we must vigilant to never let it happen again.

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