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The Independent Critic

Zaninka Hadidja, Marc Gwamaka, Mazimpaka Kennedy, Cassandra Freeman, Hassan Kabera
Alrick Brown
Ishmael Ntihabose (Story), Charles Plath (Storyline Consultant), Patricia Janvier (Storyline Consultant), Alrick Brown (Screenplay)
100 Mins.
Breaking Glass Pictures (DVD)
Commentary with the director, cinematographer and star Cassandra Freeman; The Making of Kinyarwanda; Kinyarwanda Comes Home; poster and stills gallery; the film's shooting script; and The Final Take: a brief memoriam of AD Steve Ntasi.

 "Kinyarwanda Review"  
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While I nearly always fancy myself a fan of the releases of indie distrib Breaking Glass Pictures, even I'll confess that I was extremely impressed when they landed the highly acclaimed and Sundance Film Festival Award-winning drama Kinyarwanda, one of the most impactful and meaningful films yet to explore the true significance of the Rwandan genocide both globally and interpersonally.

Before you start thinking to yourself that you've seen everything you need to see about the Rwandan genocide, either courtesy of Hotel Rwanda or Shooting Dogs, the simple truth is that you haven't and Kinyarwanda does what almost seems unthinkable and turns the story into an intimate, deeply personal story even for those of us who find ourselves in relative safety thousands of miles away.

"The funny thing about genocide, you never know who's knocking."

The statement above, made during a voiceover just past the opening credits of Kinyarwanda, is the film's earliest indicator that what we're about to see unfold isn't simply a documentary about Rwanda but a deeply personal story, in this case a series of intertwining stories, about the impact of these events on the everyday people in Rwanda.

The directorial debut of NYU Film School grad Alrick Brown, Kinyarwanda is the kind of film that restores your faith in humanity because of Brown's extraordinary ability to weave together the stories contained within this film without ever resorting to dramatics other than those contained quite naturally within the stories that unfold.

The film is most effective in its early stages. While the compartmentalizing is initially jarring, it's an effective means of storytelling (think Crash but better!) that helps the viewer bond with each participant in each storyline. By the time the film begins to wrap itself together, one has become so involved in each individual storyline that the melding together is strengthened in impact.

Kinyarwanda also manages to tell aspects of the story not previously given much attention. For example, the role of Islam providing sanctuary during the genocide. The Mufti of Rwanda, the nation's most revered Islamic leader, issued a fatwa forbidding any Muslims from participating in the genocide. As a result, Mosques throughout the nation became sanctuaries for both Hutus and Tutsis who were making the choice not involve themselves in the conflict.

Kinyarwanda is constructed of six central stories that weave themselves into the film's fabric of love, life, forgiveness and working past the need for vengeance. These stories are based upon true stories, and what's remarkable about Kinyarwanda is how deeply authentic it remains and how Alrick Brown manages to construct a compelling story without ever catering to typical Hollywood brushstrokes.

The film does an extraordinary job of showing the roots, not Rwanda related but Belgian, that allowed this genocide to manifest but also beautifully realizes the roots of an African nation that found a way, after a few months and a million lives lost, to stop the massacre and to begin the fragile journey towards reconciliation and reconstruction of the nation.

The film is well cast with largely Rwandan actors, many of whom are inexperienced yet quite effective for what they need to accomplish here. Edouard Bamporiki, whom some will recognize from the marvelous Munyurangabo, is also here and quite effective.

For more information on Kinyarwanda, visit the film's Breaking Glass Pictures page. The film is now available on DVD!

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic