|Article by Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Pictures by Morgan Mbabazi
Published July 11, 2007
A film festival aimed at promoting peace in the politically-turbulent central African region, Amani Great Lakes Film Festival (AGLFF), will run in Kigali, Rwanda, July 21- 27, 2007. BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI reports.
The inaugural seven-day AGLFF, on the theme, ‘The Best Images for Peace’, will be a platform that showcases feature, documentary and short films, live music, art exhibition, and workshops and seminars on peace building in the politically-turbulent central African region. AGLFF will bring together young filmmakers of the Great Lakes Region, students, film professionals, development communications practitioners and the general public.
“We would like to promote peace, unity and reconciliation in the Great Lakes Region,” Oliver Ndikumana, the technical director, told ArtMatters.Info. “All the films will be in line with the festival’s theme.”
Perhaps no better theme could have been chosen than peace bearing in mind that Rwanda is better known in the world for the Genocide that tore the Land of A Thousand Hills in 1994 than for anything else. In less than four months an estimated 800000 people were massacred in Rwanda.
That infamous Genocide has spawned numerous films, some of which we highlight here.
Without wishing to forget or diminish the horror of what happened, they talk of a better future for Rwanda, and the journey the country needs to make to find peace and reconciliation. Through eyewitness accounts and gripping footage the documentary explores the complexities of life in Rwanda after the genocide. Death is still present in the hearts of the survivors and memories are literally everywhere.
Behind the Convent, a 30-minute film made by Gilbert Ndahayo in 2007, is an emotional story of Roman Catholic Church nuns who watched Ndahayo’s parents, younger sister and two hundred other people being killed during the Genocide.
“My parents and my young sister were killed together with some of our neighbours who were hiding in the convent behind our compound in Kigali. The killers brought them out and killed them behind our house,” Ndahayo recounts.
“From the road, the killers allowed children to return to the convent not because they were children but because they were mixed with the perpetrators’ children and during this mess, it would have taken too much of their time screening them. Among the children who survived were my four younger siblings. After the killers realised that I wasn’t among the people they killed, they searched for me in vain and, in frustration, went to our house and burnt it down. Can I forget this? No, it would be an insult to the memory of my parents and all those who perished in genocide,” Ndahayo says. “Rwanda has suffered a lot. I have suffered a lot. I want to express it,” he tells BBC.
Scars of Silver, another film Ndahayo made in 2007, is based on stories of domestic violence and the abuse of the girl child. In the 12-minute film, Nadine, the main character, has been so vigilant in the days that followed the 1994 Rwandan genocide but it is unclear if she can survive the trap of the post-Genocide evil that await her.
Isugi, a 25-minute film by Jacques Rutabingwa in 2005, is the story of a young female survivor of the Genocide. Haunted by the memories of her loved ones, Isugi is sexually abused by her adoptive father.
Shooting Dogs, made by Michael Caton-Jones of the UK in 2005, is a 115-minute film about refugees who are abandoned by the United Nations, and are eventually murdered by the extremist militias in Kigali.
Hotel Rwanda, directed by Terry George, is the moving true story of Paul Rusesabagina’s heroic efforts to save his family during the civil conflict that saw Rwandans who had co-existed peacefully turn against one another in a vicious frenzy of murder.
Shake Hands with the Devil, directed by Peter Raymont, is about one man who was tasked by the UN with ensuring that peace was maintained in Rwanda – Canadian Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire. But unsupported by U.N. headquarters in New York, Dallaire and his handful of soldiers were incapable of stopping the genocide. After ten years of mental torture, reliving the horrors daily and more than once attempting suicide, Dallaire wrote a book with the same title showing the journey as he revisited the killing fields that haunt him.
Sometimes in April, Written and directed by Haitian Raoul Peck, is an epic story of courage focusing on the almost indescribable human atrocities that took place a decade ago through the story of two Hutu brothers ‘one in the military, the other on radio’ whose relationship and private lives were forever changed in the midst of the genocide.
One of the very first films to be made on the Genocide, 100 Days by Nick Hughes, follows the fate of one family while reflecting on the fate of women in the Genocide as well as the tragic roles of the UN, the France, and the Roman Catholic Church.
It appears that it is from the abundance of such films that Urungano Youth and Media, the organisers of AGLFF, seek to showcase perhaps from the observation that they that do not learn from history repeat it.
Urungano Youth and Media is a local non-governmental organisation that uses the mass media to promote the culture of peace and human rights in the Great Lakes Region. Over the past three years the NGO, with funding from German Development Agency (GTZ), has managed to put in place four projects at the Maison des Jeunes of Kimisagara in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
The Short film project is an initiative that identifies aspiring young filmmakers with stories to tell, to develop their skills through the production of short films that are screened in various film festivals around the world.
The CINEDUC project uses mobile cinema and films on human rights, especially on themes of tolerance and peace to animate workshops of reflection, discussion and analysis. It gives priority to contemporary issues of concern to Africans.
The Heza Magazine is a youth publication that aims to promote values, attitudes in youth so that they will use non violence to resolve problems.
AGLFF, the fourth project of the NGO, of is said to be committed to creating positive change through the use of media and culture. This is to be achieved through the provision of training, encouraging professionalism and social responsibility in the community, promoting freedom of expression and cultural innovation, and offering people from the Great Lakes Region a platform to tell their own stories, and to explore and promote their culture through the medium of film.