Kinyarwanda starts with an explanation of what Kinyarwanda means; the native language of Rwanda spoken by its natives. It is a nod to the unity of the people, despite the atmosphere there.
Kinyarwanda follows several story lines during the Rwandan genocide between warring factions, Tutsi and Hutu. The tone is not entirely bleak, there are several charming moments, notably a small boy that misunderstands that men looking for “guns and cockroaches” are not looking for a VHS tape of an action movie and actual cockroaches living in a cupboard. Where the film does suffer, however, is that the 4 or 5 story lines are intertwining and overlapping without a consistent timeline. The film seems to go back and forth in time with no regard for telling the audience. It muddles the plot that would be otherwise enjoyable.
The film itself is powerful and the actors are quite on form. Movies like Hotel Rwanda got the genocide exposed to audiences, but perhaps were partially sensationalized, if that’s the correct term, whereas Kinyarwanda focuses more on the people during this trying time. Before the movie, the writer/director, Alrick Brown, introduced the film and asked us to try to forget any preconceived notions we had of Rwanda, its people, and the genocide. I think this helps Kinyarwanda tell its own tale but it does not give us too detailed a background of what is happening in the nation. But the film is touching and shows an interesting perspective of people rising above these horrors.
Allow me to give a brief history lesson to set up this post…
I am from the greater Chicagoland area and have been a movie lover for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my family would watch Siskel and Ebert At the Movies religiously. My father wouldn’t see a movie without hearing the opinions of both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. I have literally grown up with Roger Ebert as the film critic and I’ve enjoyed reading his work my entire life.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ebertfest, here is the official site, here is the Wikipedia page. It pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a film festival helmed by Mr. Ebert. It is held near the University of Illinois campus and unlike other film festivals where submissions are welcome, Ebertfest choices are handpicked.
I am incredibly excited to get to be going this year and a good friend of mine is flying up from North Carolina to share the experience. It’s my first time going, but hopefully not my last.
Now, onto the film choices…
Kind Hearts and Coronets – Not only is this a great movie, but Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) picked it and will be the host for the night. Alec Guiness is simply amazing in this.
Big Fan – Another great movie, starring Patton Oswalt as a rabid NY Jets fan. Obviously Oswalt will join for this
Joe Versus the Volcano – An seemingly odd choice but one of Ebert’s favorites. I’m always up for classic Tom Hanks movies.
Phunny Business: A Black Comedy – Totally unaware of this documentary but it is about an all black night club and the owner. The owner of the club, Raymond Lambert, will be joining us.
The Truth About Beauty and Blogs – Short film, hadn’t heard of it before but it looks like it will tie into Phunny Business. Joined by Kelichi Ezie, the comedienne and filmmaker. Joined by the writer-director, actors and some crew.
Kinyarwanda – I have heard many things about this and if it’s as heart-wrenching as it sounds it will be mesmerizing.
On Borrowed Time – A documentary about the past two years of Paul Cox’s life after getting a life-saving kidney transplant. Should be a fascinating watch. Cox and Nate Kohn will join.
A short film collection accompanied by The Alloy Orchestra including Georges Méliès’ Trip to the Moon, which you may recognize from Hugo. Alloy Orchestra members will join the discussion.
A Separation – This Iranian film (and Oscar winner!) is something I regret not having already seen so I greatly look forward to it. Director, Asghar Farhadi, is hoping to join.
Special effects techniques from the wizards that worked on The Tree of Life.
Higher Ground – Not the stoner comedy that its name makes it out to be, this is a film about how religion shapes a woman’s life. Screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs will join.
Patang – I don’t believe I had heard of this film before. The director’s father was one of Ebert’s old film students. Director Prashant Bhargava will join along with his father and assorted cast and crew.
Take Shelter – A movie that has ranked very high on my ‘to-watch’ list and I couldn’t be more excited that Michael Shannon will be there along with director, Jeff Nichols. So very excited for this one.
Citizen Kane – Not only is this one of the best movies ever, but Ebert recorded a commentary track for the DVD release some years ago and that will be playing along with the movie. It is a fantastic commentary to go along with an incredible film.
More details can obviously found in the source link at the top of this post but I must say again…I am EXTREMELY excited for this. I will be posting from the event, so expect more to come!