Director Alrick Brown’s Kinyarwanda, reminds us of a very dark and grim period in modern world history. In 1994, for one hundred days, roughly 1,000,000 people were murdered as a result of genocidal tactics in Rwanda. Hutu extremists targeted Tutsi “cockroaches” and anyone sympathetic to Tutsis through violent bloodshed and hate talk radio. Noticeably, there were Hutus married to Tutsis, Hutu relatives of Hutu-Tutsi children, and religious groups (Christians and Muslims), that were considered as sympathetic to Tutsis. Hutu gangs used machine guns and machetes to maim and rape with no apparent end in sight.
Places of worship such as mosques became havens for protection, even if briefly. Hotel Rwanda, a famous place of refuge, was referred to in Kinyarwanda. Why all the slaughtering in the first place? Towards the end of the film, it is explained that when Rwanda was under Belgian colonial rule, Belgian authorities would measure the head size, rib cage length and other physical attributes of Rwandans for division of labor. Depending on your measurement, your task may be indoors (i.e., working in government, schools, etc.), or outdoors (i.e., farming, field work, etc.). This type of caste system fostered discord and resentment amongst the Rwandans. W hen the Belgians left and no longer ruled the Rwandan government, the animosity and malice of the natives were deeply rooted. How did the slaughtering finally end? Kinyarwanda shows the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a battalion of Tutsi rebels, rescuing the day.
While the civil war persisted, Kinyarwanda depicts romance, love, forgiveness, betrayal and fear in six different subplots to constitute one overarching storyline. From a Catholic priest selling out his flock to Hutu gangs to preserve his own life, to an ex-Hutu gang member committing suicide at the Unity & Reconciliation Reedukation Camp after admission of killing a baby, Kinyarwanda shows how the Rwandans healed and rebuilt their nation. Although there were some deficiencies in both the acting and interweaving of the subplots, Alrick Brown’s directorial debut was an admirable effort. The film has English subtitles for several scenes so remain alert during the approximately 100 minutes of running time.
Kinyarwanda was nominated for three NAACP Image Awards and is the recipient of several film festival awards, including the 2011 World Cinema Audience Dramatic Award at Sundance. The DVD, released May 1, 2012, has special features such as a cast and crew commentary, The Making of Kinyarwanda, a Kinyarwanda Comes Home featurette, galleries, the shooting script, and a memoriam of AD Steve Ntasi.