Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Kinyarwanda

Kinyarwanda is an independent film distributed by the  African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) whose mission is to promote the theatrical release of indie films by African-American filmmakers.  In a series of six vignettes, Kinyarwanda explores the lives of everyday Rwandans during the genocide in 1994 in which ethnic Hutus, at the urging of the government, killed almost a million ethnic Tutsis and their supporters in a period of about 100 days.  I appreciated the effort made by writer-director Alrick Brown; however, I believed the subject-matter was so broad and so complex that the film only scratched the surface.  First, unless you already know something about the history of  the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the movie was hard to follow.  Although the vignettes all intersected by the time the movie ended, they did so in a non-linear fashion.  This type of non-linear storytelling is interesting, but probably better suited for a less complex context.   Second, Brown touched on a number subjects--religious strife (Muslim v. Christian), class-ism, the legacy of imperialism, the RPF (the revolutionary insurgent force which ultimately took over the government after the genocide), and more common issues of love and fidelity--but never delved deeply into any one issue.  I think the movie would have been much more powerful if a single subject was explored, such as the reconciliation camps that took place after the genocide in which survivors were able to confront their attackers.  Third, in certain parts of the film, it was very apparent that there just were not enough extras or other resources to realistically portray the scenes, especially scenes involving the RPF and when the survivors were fleeing to the refugee camps.  Even with these shortcomings, I think it is important to support filmmakers like Brown and the AFFRM movement who are bringing interesting and compelling stories by and about black people to the big screen.  So I urge you to see Kinyarwanda if it's playing near you.

Other films regarding the 1994 Rwandan genocide: Hotel Rwanda, Shake Hands with the Devil:The Journey of Romeo Dallaire, and Ghosts of Rwanda.

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