Friday, November 06, 2009

Munyurangabo, film by Lee Isaac Chung

At this point, much has been written about the genocide in Rwanda, yet it is hard for outsiders to imagine and understand. With the bloodbath past, we hope that progress toward peace and reconciliation is being made, and we turn our attention elsewhere. Perhaps there is progress. How else could a film like Munyurangabo be made.?

The story of the film is almost as good as the story in the film. Lee Isaac Chung, a Korean American filmmaker, taught cinema and photography in Rwanda to street kids with the result that they became cast and crew of his film, the first ever in the Kinyarwanda language, a language the director does not speak. The principle actors were boys from the ghetto who worked as porters in the Kigali market. One was a genocide orphan; the other thought he was until after the film was made and his father was located in Uganda. Just think, over ten years after the genocide people are still finding each other. The film was shown in festivals around the world.

Munyurangabo itself is pretty stark. Though it shows Rwanda to be a beautiful country with rolling hills and bright green banana plants, it reveals how impoverish the people are. They are also still leery of strangers and question whether they are Hutus or Tutsis. Many still feel bound to seek revenge in the name of their slain relatives. Others long for peace, even if for "just one more night at home." The dramatic tension lasts to the very end.

Chung artfully brought Rwandan dance, music, and poetry into his beautifully composed film. It is hard to believe Munyurangabo was his first feature length film. I hope for more to come.

Munyurangabo. The Film Movement, 2009. 97 minutes. ISBN 9781440746451

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