Kinyarwanda (2011)



Director:     Alrick Brown.

Starring:     Cassandra Freeman (Lt. Rose), Edouard Bamporiki (Emmanuel), Cleophas Kabasita (Francine), Mazimpaka Kennedy (Father Pierre), Hadidja Zaninka (Jean), Hassan Kabera (Ishmael), Abdallah Uwimana (The Imam), Marc Gwamaka (Patrique), Mutsari Jean (The Mufti of Rwanda), Kena Onyenjekwe (Sgt. Fred), Assumpta Micho (Miryam 'The Witch'), Ayuub Kasasa Mago (Father Bertrand), Watta Hezekis (Father Jean Claude), Munyantore Bashil (Head Ghanaian Soldier), Ibrahim Kasuiya (Shmael's Father).

interwoven stories of different people have to deal with the horrible events of the Rwanda genocide



Spoiler Warning:

Kinyarwanda, known also as a Bantu language and official language of Rwanda, spoken by virtually the entire population. 

The young girl narrator says:  "The Rwandan genocide lasted three months, about a 100 days, from April 3 to July 4, 1994.  It was long enough for the seasons to change.  Long enough for governments to stand by and do nothing.  Long enough for some to become heroes and others villains.  Long enough for me to get bored."

Flashback.  Young men and women are dancing in a house to the music. There is a knock at the door.   "The funny thing about genocide is you never know who's knocking."    But this time, it's the narrator Jean.

The young people try to ignore what's going on in the outside world. They keep the drapes closed.  A young woman opens the drapes for a quick look outside.  She sees a boy being walked down the street followed by a man with a machete and two other men with clubs. She quickly closes the drapes.  A young man changes the music cassette and hateful words about some people being cockroaches are hurled over the radio.  The young man quickly turns on the cassette and starts singing along with the music. 

At night the young man who was singing walks Jean home.  Along the way they see men with machetes holding other men as prisoners.  The young man waves hello to a soldier (Mbarubukeye Thierry) holding a gun on the prisoners.  They take another route around the men to get Jean home.  In the background, sounds of automatic weapons fire are heard.  Before going in, Jean changes from western garb into native garb to fool her mother. She turns on the bedroom lights and then lays down on her bed.  She thinks about her young fellow.  She gets up and goes to check on her mother and father.  She finds her parents dead in their bed with blood all over the place. 

Back to the present.  Re-eduKation Camp, 2004.  A man says hello to his group.  He says his name is Mbarubukeye Thierry.  Another man says he's Sagamba Jerome.  Then there's Byabagabo Joseph, Rubyogo Steven, Nzabandora Pascal and many others.  One man won't give his name.  He is called Emmanuel.  A woman welcomes the men to the Unity and Reconciliation Re-eduKation Camp.  The woman leader, former Lt. Rose, says the first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive.  The men in front of her have inflicted great pain on other people, and are hated by these people.  The men before her must understand the pain and suffering they have caused others if these others are to forgive the men.  They must take full responsibility for what they have done and repent. 

Thierry says he has killed up to 20 people.  Another says 3 people.  Another man just says he's taken the lives of "many".  One fellow says he killed 9 Tutsi people.  Another man says he hurt "a lot" of people, but he didn't kill anyone.  He chopped them with his machete.  And one man (Emmanuel) says nothing. 

Thierry says that when the war started he was given a list of traitors to kill.  They took people from their homes, schools and churches.  "Hutus married to Tutsi were traitors too.  . . . All were to be killed."  Another man says they forced Tutsi people out of a car and killed them.  Their leader cut off the head of the couple's baby. 

The men sing a song about rebuilding Rwanda and turning it into a paradise.  They are stopped by the screaming of a woman for help.  They all run over and find the camp leader screaming for someone to call the doctor.  A young man has cut his wrist and former Lt. Rose is trying to stop the bleeding.  The young fellow says:  "I killed the baby." 

The Mufti.  A sister in the family awakens her father, a Muslim and legal representative of the Muslims in Rwanda.  She says they have a problem.  She takes him into the living room where his wife and three boys are standing still.  Mother tells father to look at what the boys did to their sister's Koran.  They have desecrated the book.  All three boys say it wasn't them.  The youngest boy blames it on Isaiah.  Sister is told to get daddy's belt.  Sister doesn't want to do that.  She slowly walks over to daddy's clothes closet. On the back of the door are about five long belts. 

Nashida brings the smallest belt to her father.  He tells her to go back and get the big belt.  Over the radio is heard the news that hundred of cockroaches have been killed.  The announcer gloats over the large numbers of dead.  Father disapproves and turns the radio off.  The boys are told to hold their hands out.  The belt starts to come down on the first hand, but the action is not shown. 

Tutsi people are in a church seeking sanctuary.  Outside the Hutus are singing songs about killing the Tutsi. 

The Priest and the Imam.  One of the priests is not with the other priests looking after the refugees.  Bertrand, a priest, comes into the room where the priest has isolated himself.  He asks him why isn't he with the people?  No answer.  Bertrand says alright, he will protect the man.  He says he will go outside and speak to the Hutu leader.  Bertrand goes back to the people.  He walks over to the door and opens it and then steps outside.  Bertrand speaks to the leader and then steps out of the way to let the murderers into the church.  The eager beavers quickly run inside to slaughter everyone there. 

Bertrand takes the leader to the room where the lone priest was.  The man has thrown his religious clothing off and is running now for his life outside the church.  Hutus with machetes and flashlights chase after him. 

An imam lets people hide in his mosque, and they are running out of supplies for them. 

The priest and many more men women are hiding amidst the bushes.  They are found, taken to the road and told to kneel down.  The soldier leader looks to his right and sees Jean and the young man.  The soldier waves back to the young man.  The couple leaves.  The soldier turns back to his taunting of the priest and others.  Then a woman, said to be the witch, arrives.  She acts crazy and tells the prisoners to get up and come to see the child.  It takes awhile, but the people get up and start walking away in the direction she pointed to.  The witch now starts leaving.  Some of the former prisoners, including the run-awaypriest, follow her. 

The Imam calls for food and water for his refugees. 

The witch tells the former prisoners that they are taking the prisoners to the mosque where they will be safe.  The priest says that there is nowhere that is safe. 

The imam asks the UN soldiers, probably also Africans, for food and water, which they have.  The witch arrives with her refugees and they are permitted to enter the mosque.  Jean is walked to the mosque by her boyfriend.  She goes in and he goes back.  Jean asks her fellow to please stay with her.  He says he's sorry, but he can't.  He then reconsiders and will stay with her. 

The imam talks to the priest.

Lt. Rose and Sergeant Fred.  A woman, Lt. Rose, says there were several small genocides before 1994.  Her family fled to Uganda because of the earlier genocide.  There she joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).  They trained with the Ugandan soldiers and fought against the Okato regime, but mostly they just waited for the day they could return to Rwanda. 

Lt. Rose is part of the group taking the refugees to a U.N. camp.  She sees a refugee kicking one of the the prisoners. A solder stops the refugee and tells him not to kick the prisoner.  The refugee justifies his actions by saying this man was committing many crimes, especially rape.  Lt. Rose tells the refugee that they are not here to punish these prisoners.  What they ultimately want is justice.  With the refugees are Jean and her boyfriend plus the Catholic priest and the imam. 

The refugees and the army come to a hospital.  They want to evacuate the people in the hospitals, but 150 militia men have been killing anyone coming out of the hospital.  So Lt. Rose says their best bet is to make the evacuation a late night operation.  She wants to know who will take the point on this operation?  Sergeant Fred says he will..  She tells the sergeant to let someone else take the point, but the sergeant insists that he will do it.  Later, the lieutenant asks the sergeant why does he volunteer for point when he his wife has a baby on the way.   Fred says he wants to set a good example for his son.  The lieutenant talks about how after she came back from her tour of duty in Uganda her son would only call her auntie-mommy and not mother. 

Late at night Fred jumps over a wall and onto the hospital grounds.  He opens the door for his army buddies to come onto the grounds filled with refugees.  They start moving the refugees out.  A militia man hears movement and wakes the other militia men.  The militia men start to move to the hospital, and Lt. Rose tells some of her men to keep the militia back.  So a soldier shoots one of the approaching militia men.  Now the refugees really start running.  Three militia men sneak up behind Sergeant Fred and kill him with their machetes.  Lt. Rose chases the militia men away.  She holds Sergeant Fred. 

She's Tutsi, He's Hutu.   The wife asks her husband, after all that she has told him, he has nothing to say?  No. She says he should should start talking about his mistress first.  The wife then asks if the mistress is a Hutu?  Yes.  This makes the wife angry, and she calls her husband a dog.  He says he's sorry, but this is not the time to talk about this.  He wants to talk about getting her out of this area safely.  The wife asks if he loves the other woman?  No.  It was all a mistake.  And he doesn't care that his wife is a Tutsi and the other woman is a Hutu.  The couple's daughter comes to speak with her parents.  She turns out to be Jean.  Her mother wants her to pack a bag because they are leaving tomorrow.  Jean says she wants to go visit her boyfriend.  Mother and father say no.  Jean says she is sick of being stuck in the house for weeks now.  She wants to get out.  The answer is still no. 

Guns and Cockroaches.  A little boy named Ishmael is told to go get some cigarettes for his father.  The boy goes to the store and sees a new clerk.  He asks where's Cedric?  The clerk says that he now owns this store and there is no Cedric any more.  The boy gets the cigarettes and is given some candy by the owner.  The boy now walks down the road, but runs into a road block commanded by there young men.   One of the young men says he had a girlfriend, but he got rid of her because she was half-cockroach (half Tutsi and half Hutu).  The girlfriend turns out to be none other than Jean.  One day he saw Jean with her current boyfriend and he didn't like it at all.  Having thought about Jean, the young fellow now says he should go pay Jean a visit one last time.  Go and give her one last kiss.  One of the guards asks if the fellow would really kiss a cockroach?  He adds that you don't kiss a cockroach, you rape them.  The fellow agrees with the proponent of rape. 

The guards hear some shooting in the area.  Maybe it's FAR (Rwandan Armed Forces) or the RPF?  The little boy Ishmael tells the guards that he knows where the enemy is.  So the three young men follow after after the boy.  This little boy, Ishmael, was the one seen at the house where the young people were dancing and listening to music.  A young woman saw the small boy leading three young men. 

The boy returns home and points to his own apartment and the three toughs bust open the door.  They demand that the people tell them where are the cockroaches they are hiding?  And where are their guns?  The boy's father asks the boy what did he tell the three young fellows?  The boy goes over and puts a tape in the VHS player that shows men fighting .  The boy says here are their guns.  And then he goes over and kicks a cabinet and roaches scamper from under the cabinet.  He tells the young men that and here are the cockroaches.  

The Mufti.  We are back at the home of the mufti of the Muslims where the boys are about to have their hands hit with a belt. Sister screams that the boys didn't to it.  She says she was the one who did it.  Dad says he will punish the little girl later, but he seems to be proud that she finally confessed what she did.

Now father meets with other Muslim holy men.  The imam that protected the refugees in his mosque says that he's starting to think that this political insanity is becoming infectious.  He adds that one of his neighbors is leading an Interahamwe (a Hutu paramilitary organization) death squad.  The father says he called all the men together because he has just heard of the news of a massacre at the Cathedral.  A man tells Hassan that he doesn't like the Christians because they are massacring people in the churches.  Another man says that they can't forget that there are Christians out there saving lives.  Another man says that all ethnic hatred was brought upon Rwanda by the Belgian colonists.  The men keep talking at odds with each other, when they suddenly come together to support the idea of protecting al the Tutsi people, not just the Tutsi Muslims. 

Father writes to the Muslims not to take part in any of the atrocities on the Tutsi people.  He says if Muslims join in on the atrocities, they will be punished in the same way as someone who killed friends, relatives and neighbors.  He signs his name Mufti Cheikh Tembo.  He is the legal representative of Muslims in Rwanda. 

Jean as narrator says:  "And with that signature our lives changed.  When the war was at its worst, when there was no where else to hide, it became the safest place for Tutsi, Hutu, Muslim and Christian.  That is where we made it and how we came to know each others' stories."

To the run-away priest Jean gives her confession of lying to her parents and then not having a chance to apologize to them for when she came home on that fateful night her parents had already been killed.  She says she's sorry for being selfish.  The priest tells her that God forgives her, her parents forgive her and for her penance she must forgive herself.  The imam who helped the priest now comes to see the priest.  He gives a gift to the priest.  It's the holy clothes the priest should wear. 

The imam and the priest join together to face the killer militias, but it turns out it's not the militias they see.  They see Lt. Rose leading her men on a rescue mission.  They are now going to take the refugees to a U.N. refugee camp.  A knock is heard at another gate.  They open the gate and it turns out to be Sergeant Fred.  Now all the refugees, soldiers and clergy are so happy and jump up and down. 

And now the soldiers guard the refugees as they move to the U.N. camp. 

Back to the present.  The killer who would not speak to the group now says that his name is Emmanuel.  He says he no longer calls himself a Hutu.  He is a Rwandan.  And he doesn't call others Tutsi because they are Rwandan.  "I stand before you, accepting accusations of all the wrong I did.  Because I actually did them."  And now he asks for forgiveness. 

Emmanuelle came to the home of Jean to rape her, but only her parents were home.  He ends up killing Jean's parents.  Now he asks forgiveness from Jean.  Jean says:  "From the bottom of my heart, I am giving him pardon."  And she will accept him as a friend and she will respect him. 

Jeanne gets married to her boyfriend.

The Rwandan genocide killed more than a million people. 

This film is inspired by true stories.



These are interwoven stories of many people that are affected by each otherr.  And there is a great deal of interweaving.  That's an interesting way to present the story, but it did make it harder to follow.  Nevertheless, I figured it out and must say I enjoyed the film.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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