Director: Lee Isaac Chung.
Starring: Jeff Rutagengwa (Munyurangabo), Eric Ndorunkundiye (Sangwa), Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka (Papa Sangwa), Jean Pierre Harerimana (Gwiza), Narcicia Nyirabucyeye (Mama Sangwa), Edouard B. Uwayo (Poet).
two friends in Rwanda are split by the warning "Hutus and Tutsis are supposed to be enemies"
Rwanda. A young fellow named Ngabo steals a machete. A younger boy asks him if he has finished packing? No answer.
The two friends walk down a street. Then they try to hitch hike, but are not having much luck. Ngabo says it will take them all day just to get a ride. He says his friend spent all of their bus ticket money, so this situation is his fault. The friend says he was hoping they could handle this situation together. So they will keep walking and see what happens. The friend gets a hit on the next try. A pick-up truck picks them up and away they go.
When the truck stops, the boys get out and start walking down dirt roads. They rest for awhile and Ngabo asks what are they going to say if people ask them where they're going? They'll say they're looking for a job. Satisfied with that answer, Ngabo asks his friend how long has it been since he was last at home? Three years is the answer.
They reach Sangwa's house. He catches his mother by surprise as she works in the fields. They are very happy to see each other. The son says he has been living in Kigali, the capital and largest city of Rwanda, situated near the geographic center of the nation. He tells his mother that actually he is now on a journey. He and his buddy are just stopping in to say hello. Mother says now that she's got her son back, she's going to hold onto him. She gives her son and Ngabo some milk to drink.
Sangwa's father comes home. Sangwa hugs him and tells him that he has to forgive him. Dad just walks back outside. Sangwa comes out and stands near him. Dad asks him how can his son leave for three long years? The family could have used his assistance. And now his son comes to him without any shame in his heart. Dad wants to know what Sangwa has to say for himself? Sangwa remains silent. Dad goes back inside.
Sangwa runs into an old friend, named Gwiza. He says hello and introduces Ngabo to Gwiza. The three guys take their gerry cans and go fill them with water. The water runs very slowly so it takes a while to fill up the cans. Gwiza comments that the two friends look like they are sad. Sangwa just says that they are fine.
Gwiza says there's a lady named Mukandori who has a goat. The other day the goat gave birth to four little goats. And all the goats were mutants with characteristics of other species. Sangwa says that Gwiza is lying, but Gwiza says no he's not.
Later, Gwiza says things have been bad here. The soil is dry and there's no grass, no avocado and no bananas. Then Gwiza says that Sangwa's has changed a lot. He doesn't drink or smoke any more. He stays home now with the family, instead of hanging out in the bars.
Mother calls for Sangwa and he and Ngabo have to to back. She gives Sangwa some food and sits down by him on a bench. She says she has a problem. She worries about him saying that if they couldn't find work in Kigali, where are they going to find work? The son says he will look everywhere and God will help them. Now she starts asking a lot of questions about his friend: who is he? where is he from? Sangwa says Ngabo is his best friend. Mom wants her son to stay home, but Sangwa declares that he must find a job.
The two traveling friends take a walk. Sangwa wants Ngabo to stay another night at his home. Ngabo asks him: "Did you forget that we're on our way to kill a man?" Sangwa replies that he can go after the man tomorrow.
The boys work in the fields with Sangwa's family. Ngabo soon is sitting down and resting saying he's tired. Gwiza asks him where is he really from, because he's not originally from Kigali. Ngabo says he was living out west, near Kibuye, [a city in the Karongi district, the capital of the Western Province in Rwanda, lying on the eastern shore of Lake Kivu]. Gwiza knows that Kibuye was home to a genocide of 90% of the town's Tutsi population in the Rwandan Civil War.
Mother says to the two friends that there's no food for them to eat today. So, the two guys decide to go out for another walk. Ngabo wants to leave, but Sangwa says he wants to stay one more night. Ngabo says, because they're friends, they will spend one more night. He then lets Sangwa know that he's going over to see Gwiza. They separate. Gwizsa and Ngabo start to get drunk on beer and Gwiza says that Ngabo can have his cow. He can pick the cow up in the morning.
Sangwa speaks with his mother. Mom gives him a big dish of food. She explains that her hands can't work for both her son and his friend, but for only her son.
A drunken Gwiza delivers the also drunk Ngabo back to Sangwa's house. At night, dad asks Sangwa: doesn't he know that the boy he's traveling with is a Tutsi? And Tutsis are nasty for they have placed the Hutus into positions of submission. Dad adds that he is suffering now because of the Huttus. They tried to put father in prison. (Ngabo is awake listening to the conversation.) "Hutus and Tutsis are enemies. Don't you know?" Sangwa tells his father he will thing about it and then tell dad later.
At breakfast the next morning, Ngabo watches the father with hate and suspicion. Sangwa goes with his gerry can to fill it with water. He meets a young girl there who is already filling up her can.
Back home, Ngabo is practicing his moves with the machete. He sees the father and contemplates killing him with the machete. Luckily, dad moves away from Ngabo.
Ngabo helps Sangwa patch a wall with mud, but then he says he will do the opposite of what Sangwa is doing, and he starts tearing down pieces of the wall. Sangwa threatens to punch Ngabo if he doesn't stop what he's doing. Ngabo says now Sangwa is getting mad over nothing. He now starts helping Sangwa again. Sangwa tells his friend that they don't need to kill the man.
With the backpack, Ngabo goes to speak with Sangwa. He says that man killed his father, so he has to kill the man. "This is a duty." He adds that Sangwa doesn't have to do any of the killing, but he wants Sangwa to be with him when he does do it. Sangwa asks his friend what if he were to buy land here for Ngabo to live? Ngabo says, seriously, he would never live here.
Dad congratulates his son over the job of fixing the wall. He says he is happy with his son now. Yes, Sangwa has been a good son.
Ngabo tells Gwiza that the one thing he regrets most is that he can't remember his dad's face. His mother burned all the photos of his father and then, not much later, she died. He adds that when he thinks about how his father died, he gets very depressed.
Ngabo goes back to the house. He feels like an outsider as he listens to the friendly dinner talk of the family. He hears Sangwa talking about the girl he met at the well. Dad now says that he is going to build a house for Sangwa and sell some cows for his wedding.
It looks like someone is very sick. Dad says that Gwiza is sick and Ngabo wants to go with the father to see Gwiza. Dad hesitates and then says that ever since Ngabo come there's only been trouble. Even his own kids are sick. He blames Ngabo for this. Then he starts blaming his own son, because he brought Ngabo to their house. The family without the two boys goes to see Gwiza.
The two boy walk over to the festival to watch the dancing accompanied by drum beats and singing. Again Ngabo feels like an outsider. Sangwa and Ngabo go for a walk. Ngabo says that his father and what he said really bothered him. He didn't appreciate what he said to him. And now Sangwa says he is not going to go with Ngabo to kill the man. He's staying home with his family. Ngabo says that Sangwa is his only friend, so who will he live with in Kigali? He goes on to say that Sangwa has it good because he has a family. But he (Ngabo) has it very rough because the Hutus killed his family. Moreover: "I bet your father was involved in the killings." Sangwa tells his friend not to involve his father in this. Ngabo continues: "The way he looks at me when I enter your home shows me that he was among them." Sangwa responds by saying he no longer wants to see Ngabo anymore. So, Ngabo says he's leaving.
When Sangwa returns home, he gets a beating by his father, who tells Sangwa that Ngabo told him all about their plans to kill a man. Dad then throws him out of the house and tells him never to come back again. Sangwa says he will never come back again.
Sangwa starts walking away. Soon he is joined by Ngabo who tells his ex-friend that he told Sangwa that his father was bad. Then Ngabo starts walking ahead of Sangwa at a fast pace. Sangwa catches up with him. Ngabo tells him not to follow him, because Sangwa already rejected him once. He pushes Sangwa down onto the dirt road and takes off.
Ngabo says: "It seemed like many days I saw these parts of the country as though for the first time. I had not walked so far since my mother and I were fleeing before we found the refugee camp. Back then we saw a lot of death and many horrors. We saw rivers clogged with bodies, children killing. There were babies sucking at their mother's dead breasts. And the blood covered the earth. Sometimes those days were all I could remember."
Ngabo walks to his family's land. He thinks to himself that the land still feels like it's his family's land, because his father spilt his blood over this land.
He walks into town and asks a young fellow if they sell food here. He says yes. Ngabo opens his backpack and the other fellow sees the machete. He asks Ngabo if it is a machete? Ngabo remains quiet. The other fellow asks him if he knows that tomorrow it's National Liberation Day? The guy says he has to recite a poem during the celebration, and he wants the stranger to be the first to hear the poem. It was a great poem about peace and the terrible things that happened during the civil war. The poem keeps asking and don't you know that this is injustice?
Ngabo goes to a small house. He tries to go in but the door is locked. He goes around to the back and takes off his backpack. The back door is open. He enters the house going very slowly and quietly. A man lays on the floor not looking very good. Ngabo asks what happened to the man? The fellow says he has AIDS. He also says he needs water. Ngabo walks out of the house. He picks up his backpack and leaves.
That night sleeping in a field, Ngabo dreams that he's back to being friends with Sangwa. He is awoken by a soft rain. He goes back to the house of the man with AIDS. He gets the man some water in two gerry cans.
Down by the water near Ngabo is Sangwa.
Spoiler warning: I was dreading this movie because I thought it would have many scenes of bloodshed and killing, like so many of the other Rwanda films I saw. Thankfully, this one has no real violence or blood. But I sure was expecting it at any moment, while I watched it. There is lots talk of violence and expectations of violence, but there's only a beating or two. You still feel the ethnic hatred and tension between the Hutus and the Tutsis, but this is verbal not physical. It's the walking away from the violence, not drowning in it. The families of the two main actors were victims of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda. They lived through a hateful and bloody time.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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