The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was so extreme and, to most outsiders, so sudden and unbelievable, that it is only through the feature films inspired by the events that many have begun to understand why it happened at all, who was culpable, and how a society recovers after a tragedy of such proportions.
Of the six films made so far the most well known is Hotel Rwanda. Shooting Dogs (aka Beyond the Gates) and Shake Hands with the Devil are also well worth seeing, and the word on Kinyarwanda is that it is about to join this short but notable list.
It's being billed as the first of its kind to be conceived and produced by Rwandans (see cast and crew). According to the director, besides conducting extensive interviews with survivors, and using stories from individuals represented in the Genocide Museum in Kigali, many of the nuances of the film came from the Rwandan cast and crew members. These stories, he says, were so bizarre, intense, beautiful, touching, inspiring and painful that he just had to write, and knew immediately what was going into the script.
This film is likely to give viewers a less hysterical view of the co-existence of islam and christianity in sub-saharan Africa than they may be accustomed to from mainstream media reports on the subject.
Kinyarwanda receives its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on the 24th of January. Look out for it in cinemas near you later this year.
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Mufti of Rwanda, the most respected Muslim leader in the country, issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from participating in the killing of the Tutsi. As the country became a slaughterhouse, mosques became places of refuge where Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis came together to protect each other.
Kinyarwanda is based on true accounts from survivors who took refuge at the Grand Mosque of Kigali and the Imams who opened their doors to give refuge to the Tutsi and to those Hutu who refused to participate in the killing.
The story interweaves six different tales that together form one grand narrative, providing the most complex and real depiction yet presented of life and human resilience during the genocide.
In order to create a film that would be both educational and entertaining the film uses storytelling structure much like popular artistic films like Pulp Fiction, Amores Perros and Crash. There are a series of short stories that intertwine to create one energetic, engaging, and entertaining 90-minute narrative.