Laura Waters Hinson is in their company, but odds are you don't know her name.
Waters Hinson was the Gold Winner for Best Documentary in the 2008 Student Academy Awards for her powerful documentary, "As We Forgive," an accounting of mercy and forgiveness in Rwanda.
Not another Rwanda film, you say? Trust me, I understand. Yet, "As We Forgive" is different, I assure you. Birthed out of a trip that Waters Hinson took to Rwanda with a church group in 2005, "As We Forgive" follows two women, Rosaria and Chantale, as they come face-to-face with the men who massacred their family members during Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Justice, or at least how Americans often perceive justice, was swift following the genocide when 150,000 individuals believed involved in the genocide were arrested. Rwanda's jails were ill-equipped to handle the demand...this practical challenge became fodder for a creative solution leading to a nationwide drive toward reconciliation and national healing.
It's difficult to fathom, really, living in a country where justice is often a battle cry demanding the worst of consequences. Here in the United States, it's difficult to imagine such a nationwide directive even surviving court challenges. Yet, when Paul Kagame becomes Rwanda's president he took hold of the nation and slowly began to nurture it back to life.
Hutu's and Tutsi's, who had once lived and worked side by side and even inter-married, were challenged to allow justice to be served locally and, whenever possible, work towards reconciliation.
Waters Hinson captures vividly the stories of these women AND the stories of their perpetrators, ordinary everyday men caught up swiftly in a swell of ethnic pride that changed the landscape of this African nation.
Narrated by Mia Farrow, who reportedly donated her time to the project, "As We Forgive" doesn't contain the histrionics of a "Hotel Rwanda" and never feels orchestrated. Rather, Waters Hinson has captured on film the challenging journeys that all involved in the reconciliation process must take...some, like Chantale, are resistant to reconciliation and move slowly. Rosaria, on the other hand, embraces reconciliation as a Biblical teaching she must obey.
The men, as well, seem to crave a return to the community in which they once belonged. They are filled with self-conscious remorse, a remorse that has them more than once looking at the camera with a look that says "I don't really want this on film. This is bigger than me."
Indeed, this reconciliation project does seem bigger than humanity itself. Those who have killed have returned to the villages to build homes for their victims, at times it becomes that both survivor and perpetrator will actually live side-by-side.
No, really. It is happening. In a country devastated by genocide, a national sense of community is being restored...one-by-one through the efforts of the government, the churches, reconciliation counselors and, perhaps most importantly, the survivors and perpetrators themselves.
The winner, as well, of a Crystal Heart Award during the 2008 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, "As We Forgive" is currently continuing on the festival circuit and available on DVD at the "As We Forgive" website.
In a time in America when the economy is weak and times are hard, it may seem odd to search out yet another story about the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The thing is, "As We Forgive" isn't really about the genocide...it's about the determination of a nation to survive, thrive and become one once again. It's a message that Americans, especially today, need to hear.
by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic