Sometimes in April (2005)
Director: Raoul Peck
Cast: Idris Elba (Augustin Muganza), Oris Erhuero (Honore Muganza), Noah Emmerich (Lionel), Fraser James ( Xavier), Carole Karemera (Jeanne Muganza, Augustin's wife), Abby Mikiibi Nkaaga (Rwandan Col. Bagosora), Pamela Nomvete (Martine), Michelle Rugema (Anne-Marie Muganza, Augustin's daughter), Debra Winger (Prudence Bushnell), Prudence Bushnell (Herself), Bill Clinton (Himself), Juvenal Habyarimana (Himself), Brian Williams (Himself).
The HBO film about the 1994 genocide in the African nation of Rwanda that took some 1,000,000 lives.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Good movie. Kigal, Rwanda, April 2004. Every April is the rainy season in Rwanda. April 7 is the National Day of Remembrance (of the Rwandan genocide). Hutu Augustin, himself is a survivor of the genocide, is a teacher in a local school. He tries to answer some of the questions his young students have about the genocide. Later he reminisces that every April he remembers the genocide.
Augustin's brother, Honore, is in prison for war crimes. Augustin receives a letter from Honore asking Augustin to come visit him in prison. Honore writes that he will tell his brother what happened to Augustin's Tutsi wife Jeanne and his boys. Augustin's girlfriend Martine encourages him to go see his brother, not just for Honore, but also for Augustine himself.
Honore is being tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda being held in Arusha, Tanzania. Honore was a key actor in the hate radio that encouraged the Hutu people to kill the Tutsis.
The movie now flashbacks ten years earlier to April 1994. Honore is one of the hosts of Radio RTLM, Kigali, spewing out hate speech. Drill sergeants are busy training the interhamwes (the militias) in how to fight. Augustine is involved because he is Captain Mugonza of the Hutu army. Colonel Bagasora is busy with execution lists of Tutsis in the area along with their Hutu sympathizers.
The atmosphere is extremely tense. The president of Rwanda's plane is shot out of the sky and he and the president of Burundi are killedi. Not long after this, the Hutus start their genocidal campaign against the Tutsis. Road blocks go up all over the various neighborhoods, and the Hutus kill any Tutsis they stop at these barriers.
One morning Augustin's Tutsi friend Xavier and his family come over to Augustin's house saying that the Hutus are killing all the Tutsis in the area. Augustin is able to get the white neighbors to hide the women and children of the two families.
End of Day 1 -- 8,000 dead.
Day 2 -- 10,000 dead.
Day 3 -- 30,000 dead.
Augustin gets his brother Honore to come over with his car to try to carry out the women and children of the two families in his car, using his influence to get through the roadblocks in order to get the families to safety at the Hotel Milles Collines. Xavier and Augustin stay behind. The Hutu soldiers invade Augustin's home looking for Tutsis (with Xavier in hiding). They leave when they find none.
Back in the year 2004. Augustin goes to the Detention Facilities with the intention of visiting his brother. But at the last minute he backs out.
Back to Kigali, April 1994. Augustin and Xavier decide to try to get to the Hotel Milles Colllines. They use their car to break through one road block; they try to follow the UN trucks taking white expatriates to the airport for evacuation; but they are stopped at a road block and the UN officer refuses to say that Augustin and Xavier are in their convoy: whites only. Since Xavier is Tutsi, he is shot and killed.
In the United States, the State Department is torn apart by the lack of will to intervene to stop the genocide in Rwanda. Assistant Secretary of State Prudence Bushnell desperately wants to do something, but everyone is afraid because of the recent debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia. It is a pitiful display of inhumanity and political paralysis.
Back to 2004. Augustin's pregnant girlfriend calls Augustin to tell him that she is going to have a boy.
Back to 1994. Augustin has a young daughter who attends the local Catholic school. The Hutu soldiers and the militia arrive and force their way onto the campus. Martine gathers all the girls into one dormitory. Many of the Tutsi girls say they will voluntarily go outside (to be killed by the Hutus), but the group decides that they will all stay together. The Hutus come in demanding that the Tutsis step aside; they are then told that the girls will not separate; they smash Martine in the stomach and she goes down; they then mow down all the girls with automatic rifles. Martine and Anne-Marie survive the massacre along with another girl; they slowly get up and start to walk away from the school. On this journey Anne-Marie dies. Martine and the other survivor hide in a large swamp along with many other Tutsis.
Day 65. 620,000 dead.
Finally the RPF (the Tutsi rebel army) arrives and the Tutsis in the swamps are all saved, including Martine and the girl.
Late July 1994. The RPF army takes Gitarama. General Paul Kagame is in command. Now it is the turn of the Hutus to flee. Hundred of thousands of them become refugees.
Back to 2004. Augustin finally meets with his brother. They quarrel and Augustin starts to leave. But he stops because he wants to know what happened to his wife Jeanne and his children. Honore was stopped at the major military roadblock. He was able to call Colonel Sotori, but the colonel tells him that he can't help him save his family. Augustin's children are taken out of the car and shot to death. Jeanne tried to intervene, only to be knocked unconscious by a rifle butt blow to the head. The Hutu soldiers then burn Honore's car. (Apparently, the soldiers forgot about Jeanne in all the excitement. Honore is able to pull her into the ditch where there are already lots of dead bodies.) Later that night, Honore returns and carries Jeanne to a church. The gate was locked, so he left her by the gate.
Jeanne was taken into the church. But this did not save her or the other women there. The Hutu soldiers came to the church and killed many of the Tutsis. Jeanne was with a group of women scheduled to be executed. She heroically grabbed a hand grenade and held the soldiers at bay long enough for the women to leave. She then pulled the pin and she and the soldiers all died in the explosion.
Martine testifies against some of the men who killed the Catholic school girls.
Augustin sadly says that every year in April he remembers the genocide and his wife and children.
More than 1,000,000 people died in the Rwandan genocide.
The movie should have been called "Every Year in April" rather than sometimes in April. After all, every April Augustin remembers, along with the rest of the country, the Rwandan genocide. It's not something Augustin or the nation could forget.
This is one of those very good, but very sad, movies about man's inhumanity to man. I agree with President Clinton -- yes, the thing he should most regret about his two administrations was the ignoring of the genocide in Rwanda. It seems as though it is so much easier for the USA to go to war against nations, rather than to save people from genocide. Everyone gets gung-ho behind the declarations of war, as recently in the Vietnam and the Iraq Wars, but, somehow, saving people from genocide is just too controversial for the USA to be of any use to prevent the terrible inhumanity. Watching the floundering of the US State Department was pitiful and disgusting. I thought the motto was "never again" but apparently not.
The acting was excellent, as well as the story-telling.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
See Hotel Rwanda (2004).
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