Academic journal article Social Education

Close Up on a Genocide: Rwanda, 1994

Academic journal article Social Education

Close Up on a Genocide: Rwanda, 1994

Article excerpt

Close Up on a Genocide: Rwanda, 1994

WITH HIS LATEST FILM, Sometimes in April, Raoul Peck delves deeply into the history and turmoil of Africa by tackling an important recent period--the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that culminated in the death of more than 800,000 people in 100 days.

As a filmmaker, Peck, born in Haiti and raised in the Congo and France, has sought out difficult historical topics for his films. In 2002, he released Lumumba, about the assassination of independent Congo's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba; he has also directed and produced several films about life in Haiti under the Duvalier family dictatorship, notably The Man on the Shore, 1993. His latest film explores yet another event neglected in conventional educational materials and offers penetrating insight to students studying genocide, the legacy of colonization, Africa, foreign policy, or a range of related subjects. Through one family's story, viewers witness how hatred rooted in ethnic and political beliefs can snowball into one of the worst historical cases of ethnic cleansing.

Sometimes in April begins with historical footage showing how Belgian colonists in Rwanda originally created the division between Tutsi minorities and the Hutu majority when colonists favored Tutsis and treated them as superior. The film then focuses in on a fictional family, which Peck created from interviews with witnesses and survivors of the genocide. Augustin, a Hum army officer, is married to a Tutsi woman. They have two young sons and a daughter, who is away at Catholic school. Augustin's brother, Honore, is a journalist who spreads anti-Tutsi messages and incites violence over the airwaves of the notorious hate radio station where he works. Then, on April 6, 1994, anti-government forces shot down the plane carrying Rwanda's president--a Hutu who had been preparing to reach a peace agreement with Tutsi rebels. As Hum soldiers and fanatics embark on a killing spree targeting Tutsis, moderate Hums, and politicians linked to the government, Augustin struggles to get his family to safety.

While the indiscriminate Hutu slaughter of Tutsis is well known, Pecks film highlights a little mentioned aspect of the genocide--the instances of Hutu/ Tutsi unity. The film reenacts a massacre that occurred at a real Catholic school, the school that in the film Augustin's daughter attends, in which Hum and Tutsi girls refuse to divide into separate ethnic groups when Hum soldiers descend upon the school to kill Tutsi students. …

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