Le jour ou Dieu est parti en voyage
(The Day God Walked Away) (2009)
Director: Philippe Van Leeuw.
Starring: Ruth Nirere (Jacqueline), Lætitia Reva (Karin), Lola Tuyaerts, Afazali Dewaele (The wounded man), Pierrick Le Pochat (Jean-Pierre), Juliette Nsengiyumya (Fille de Joaquin), Ismael Dusengimana (Chef), Pacifique Niyotwizera (Fils de Joaquin), Emmanuel Kayitaba (Tueur), Mariam Mupenzi (Mégère), Aphrodice Tuyizere (L'ado armé).
a woman faces the horrors stemming from the Rwandan genocide
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"This story takes place during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The victims were mostly Tutsis, whose ethnicity sentenced them to death, along with the regime's opponents. Between 800,000 and a million perished."
A Tutsi woman and her two children are playing near a waterfall. At work in a French family's home she covers her ears to help her try to block out the sounds coming from the outside where Tutsis are being killed in very brutal ways with the use primarily of the machete.
A French woman comes over to Jacqueline to say they are leaving now. She adds that the girl must hide and stay hidden. Jacqueline is very depressed and asks what for? The woman tells her that she will be killed if she goes outside. Jacqueline says: "Maybe that would be better." The French woman tells her to stop it. Jacqueline says she can't stay here in the house. And if they don't find her, they will find her children and kill them.
The French woman tells her young daughter Sandrine that they have to go now. Jacqueline grabs the baby. The French woman takes Sandrine down to the vehicle and then comes back for the baby. The French husband has a ladder. He tells Jacqueline to climb up into the attic and hide there. Like his wife, he tells Jacqueline that they will be back. French troops wearing the United Nations blue berets are there to make sure the French family gets out safely.
A young native boy threatens the French family with a pistol, but he doesn't shoot. The convoy moves out.
Jacqueline is up in the attic. She hears a man shout: "I only killed 80." Voices mention killing a girl. Jacqueline puts her hands over her ears again as she cries. A young child begs for mercy. Jacqueline hears a shot and then she doesn't hear the child anymore. The murderers now come into the house. They go through the various rooms looking for potential victims and ransacking the place.
Someone says: "We know who's in league with the rebels: Sebucinganda from the Budaho district, Laurence and her husband, the Butete councilman and a big rebel bar owner in Kidaho. He's called Haguma." The voice goes on saying that all the Tutsis are collaborating with the rebels in Burambi.
In he house two fellows are playing video games in a bedroom. Another fellow is feeding his face in the kitchen. The guys are going to sleep in the house.
In the morning a car or truck horn is heard. The three guys in the house file outside. Now a large crowed of natives rush into the house to grab everything of value in it. Jacqueline becomes even more afraid that she will be found.
The house is just a shell now. Even the windows have been looted. The pipes are gone. In the attic Jacqueline moves around. The two little boys playing in the house run off.
Jacqueline comes down from the attic. Very slowly she looks around the place. She must be shocked by the bareness of the place. There is a check point about a block from the house. Jacqueline waits until the two guards are distracted by their intense conversations and she runs across the road. It doesn't take her long to run into a pile of dead bodies.
Very early in the morning she walks toward her village. She passes by houses that are completely devoid of people. Then she runs into more dead bodies. She comes to her house and slowly goes in. Her two children are dead on the barren floor. She cries over the loss of her two children. A woman comes into the house and tells Jacqueline that the house is no longer hers and she has to get out. Jacqueline just keeps cleaning the floor and her children's bodies. The other woman tells her that they will find her and kill her. So she must get out.
The woman forcibly pushes Jacqueline out of the house. She is now backed up by a little mob of women coming after the Tutsi woman. Jacqueline breaks away and starts running. From the corn field she watches as a woman brings out the two bodies and lays them on the dirt road. A pickup truck comes along and two men throw the bodies into the back with other dead Tutsis.
At night she starts walking again. She cries some more. She finally falls asleep against the trunk of a large tree.
In the morning she awakens. Her dress is filthy by now. She's a bit weak and stiff and it takes her awhile to get herself up off the ground. She stays in the woods. That night she hears a woman crying.
The next morning she sees a wounded man without a shirt running in the woods. Then she hears people shouting and asking if they have sighted that cockroach yet? The men are using their machetes to chop through the woods. They are very close to Jacqueline, who has to fall to the ground and remain there. The searchers get back in a vehicle and take off. Jacqueline gets up and checks to make sure she doesn't hear any noises. When she feels it's safe, she starts running through an agricultural field.
After awhile, she hears more menacing voices. She screams and falls to the ground.
Jacqueline goes almost neck deep into the waters of a lake. She hears a sneeze, gets frightened again and runs back to the shore. She looks around. On the other side of a boat she finds the hunted man sleeping. She sits down a ways from him and lets him sleep. Jacqueline decides to make a fire with a stick, some wood and some kindling. The young fellow wakes up and sees her. He starts calling for water. Jacqueline gives up on trying to start the fire.
The fellow tries to get up, but it's such slow progress as the man is in great pain. He turns over and his face falls into the water. Jacqueline drags him away from the water. She takes water in her mouth and then lets it trickle out onto the man's wound. She is cleaning his wound. She picks out the grasses and twigs from the wound. She then urinates on the wound which acts as a disinfectant.
Jacqueline sees a dead body floating in the water. The wounded man calls out for some water again. Jacqueline uses a large leaf to hold some water for the man to drink.
Jacqueline carries the young man on her back. Later she cleans his wound again. And she again urinates on the wound. She goes back to the boat and stares at the dead body in the lake that is now very close to the shore. She hears men singing a song. One part of the song is: "Kanyarengwe, that vile cockroach; he swore he'd take Kigali but he was the first to run away." In fear she rushes back to the wounded man to hide him and herself amongst the reeds of the marsh. The fellows walk right past them talking about having raped a girl and then cutting her up. They laugh at the girl's suffering.
Jacqueline hears more sounds of suffering. Being in the marsh the two of them are covered in mud. Later she goes into the lake to try to get the mud off her. Toward dark she is again carrying the wounded man on her back.
Then next day, the wounded man can sit up. He has a fire started and is working on making a spear. Jacqueline grinds up the fruit she got from some of the marsh plants and cooks it in a can over the fire. After they eat, the man goes back to working on his spear head.
Jacqueline follows a creek upstream and finds a village. She sits and watches the village. As she gets closer to "home" she sees her partner remove a shirt from off a dead body. He washes it and then wears it. He tells Jacqueline that tomorrow he will try to get some meat for them.
The man catches and kills a porcupine. He cooks the meat over a fire. He tells Jacqueline that he has a brother whose wife had seven children, while his own wife only had three. Apparently, he is a school teacher because he talks about his students at school. As the fellow consumes the porcupine meat, Jacqueline has to leave the fire to throw up.
At night her partner wants to have sex with Jacqueline, but she just pulls away from him.
Jacqueline watches the village again. One day a woman in the village sees Jacqueline watching her. She runs to the village center to tell about the woman she saw watching her. A man with a rifle goes with the woman. Jacqueline just stands there as the man takes aim at her. Her partner grabs her and pulls her down to the ground so she won't get shot. The shot does not hit either of them. Men with machetes chase them.
A young man with a machete almost catches Jacqueline so she jumps into a muddy pool and the guy sits down on the ground. He says Jacqueline is pretty. Before he would cut her up, they would have had some fun together. He then says he is doing God's work by killing her and her people. More and more Jacqueline sinks into the watery mud. The water is now just about at her lips. The villager finally tires of waiting and says she is going to die here anyway. He starts leaving and is knocked down by her partner. He is about to kill the man, when Jacqueline shouts out: "No!"
The partner gets a stick and holds it out for Jacqueline, but she won't grab it. It seems that she is thinking about dying in the pond. The partner starts crying and begs her not to leave him all alone. She finally grabs the stick and he starts pulling her out. As soon as she is on shore, she crawls over to the unconscious man, grabs his machete and throws it into the pond.
At night by the fire Jacqueline looks like she is still in a state of shock. Her partner prepares some "tea" for her, but she won't drink it. When he touches her hand, she immediately pulls her hand away from his. He asks her why did she show herself to the villagers? He tries to build up her will to survive by telling her she must think of her children. Of course, that just makes Jacqueline even sadder. He asks her why doesn't she say anything to him? For instance, what's your name?
He tells Jacqueline that he doesn't know where his wife or his children are. Now he starts getting really upset and starts saying he will never get out of these woods. That evening Jacqueline lets her partner have sex with her. She does not get anything from the sex.
The next morning she lets him caress her face with his hand.
The man has three spears now. While he is away from camp, Jacqueline starts to masturbate by the stream, but it's not easy for her to perform the act. When her partner comes back, he has a machete he found or retrieved from the pond. She is upset by the very sight of the machete. He starts making a shelter and Jacqueline joins in the task. She is very bothered by the sound of the machete biting into wood. She screams and runs away from shelter. She takes off her watch and pulls off her crucifix necklace.
One morning it seems like Jacqueline is debating with herself whether she should leave this place or stay. She goes over to her partner and touches him. He continues sleeping. She is thinking of killing him with the machete. She raises it up and thinks about bringing it back down on the man. He suddenly awakens, sees her with the machete in her hand and quickly slides away from her. She takes the machete and starts cutting down the shelter. Her partner cries.
Now Jacqueline starts running away with the machete still in her hand. She runs very fast until she trips and falls. She looks for the machete, but can't find it. She starts digging a hole, lays down on her stomach and puts her face into it. She falls asleep. Her partner looks for her, but doesn't find her.
Jacqueline walks right into the village. She suddenly collapses. Now the villagers start gathering around her asking who is she? Someone says it's that Tutsi woman. Then someone suggests that it would be better to kill the woman. "Just let her die."
Spoiler warning. Another good movie, but a sad one. At least I was saved from seeing all the killing up close. It's a study of man's inhumanity to man and the effects on a woman produced by seeing many killings and the murder of her two small children. She was so sad without her children that she frequently thought about suicide. She considered to let herself drown in a muddy pond, show herself to the enemy villagers and finally to walk right into the village itself and collapse in the village center. She was almost always sad. She saved a man's life, but his company was not sufficient to give her the will to remain alive. In fact, she never even talked to the man whose life she saved. It was quite a survival film, but even after she proved she could survive in the woods, she still wanted to die. And so she walked into the village and presumably the villagers kill her.
Ruth Nirere (as Jacqueline) was very good.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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