Remembering the Rwandan genocide through film

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide.

About a decade later, we began to see a number of dramatic films that depicted that atrocity and its aftermath from a variety of angles. Some told the story from the perspective of the Rwandans themselves, while others focused on the various European and North American figures — journalists, priests, and soliders — who saw it happen.

I reviewed four of these films — and interviewed the producer of one of them — for BC Christian News and Christianity Today between 2004 and 2009. So to mark the anniversary, I have re-posted those articles here at the blog.

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Newest version of Christ Recrucified gets a title that is more upbeat, more friendly to “faith-based audiences”

First it was a 1948 novel called Christ Recrucified. Then it was a 1957 film called He Who Must Die. (Two mini-series adaptations followed, one in 1969 and one in 1975, both using the novel’s original title.) Now comes word, via Deadline, that yet another adaptation is in the works — and this time, it is going to go by the considerably more upbeat title Christ Is Risen.

Deadline says the producers want to target “faith-based audiences”, so this could be another version of the phenomenon we saw a few years ago, when the British Rwandan-genocide movie Shooting Dogs (2005) was renamed Beyond the Gates for religious audiences in the United States.

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Review: Beyond the Gates (dir. Michael Caton-Jones, 2005)

Beyond the Gates would make an interesting double-bill with Hotel Rwanda. Both films concern the genocide of 1994 — and the shock that those living in that country felt when the international community failed to do much more than evacuate the people there who happened to have white skin. But whereas the latter film was largely about Africans who survived the massacre, thanks to a cunning businessman who knew how to push the buttons of those in power, the new film concerns a Catholic priest and a teacher at his school, both of European descent, who can do little more than watch as the world gives up on their friends and neighbors.

Of course, the priest and the teacher can do more than watch — then can pray, too — and one of the most remarkable things about Beyond the Gates is its refreshingly positive view of the role that faith can play even in the darkest of times.

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Interview: David Belton (Beyond the Gates, 2005)

It has been over a dozen years since the Rwandan genocide — an atrocity in which as many as 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers were killed by Hutu extremists in just a few months, while the outside world turned a blind eye or, worse, withdrew what little help it had offered in the first place.

David Belton covered the genocide as a reporter for the BBC. He went on to become a producer of documentaries like War Spin and Soldiers to Be, and he returned to Rwanda for his first dramatic film, Beyond the Gates, now showing in limited theaters. (Look for our review on Friday.)

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Review: Shooting Dogs (dir. Michael Caton-Jones, 2005)

SHOOTING DOGS would make an interesting double-bill with Hotel Rwanda.

Both films concern the genocide of 1994 — and the shock that those living in that country felt when the international community failed to do much more than evacuate those with white skin.

But whereas the latter film was largely about Africans who survived the massacre, thanks to a cunning hotel manager who knew how to push the buttons of the social elites, the new film concerns a Catholic priest (John Hurt) and a teacher at his school (Hugh Dancy), who can do little more than watch as the world gives up on their friends and neighbours.

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