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If you really want to find out a bit more about the genocide in Rwanda of 1994, this is THE movie to go! It's a wonderful, yet uncompromisingly sad and bitter movie. Whereas "Hotel Rwanda" was more like Schindlers List in Africa, more focusing on a Hollywood-like hero & love story, "Sometimes in April" leads you right into the very depths of hell. The characters are well pointed out, the acting is always impressive and the film-making is very subtle and pleasantly calm. the only thing really which I could complain about to a certain degree was the sometimes a bit too prominently set musical soundtrack. Still - this movie is unforgettable; for one simply because of its honest attempt to tell the story of what happened in Rwanda, when the world literally turned its head - and on the other hand I feel the deepest respect for the team involved in making this for their seriousness and adequacy. A very daring and important movie!
I became interested in the Rwanda genocide after viewing PBS's
broadcast "Ghosts of Rwanda"
(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ghosts/) and reading Lt.
Gen. Roméo Dallaire's book "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of
Humanity in Rwanda". Both (particularly Dallaire's work) effected me so
deeply that I was pleased when first "Sometimes in April" and later
"Hotel Rwanda" came to the screen, so that the Rwanda tragedy would
achieve greater attention. But I am still waiting for a definitive
screen presentation of the genocide, one that shows its full evil, one
that allows no one responsible to escape, one that underlines heroism
in a season in hell, and one that scars the viewer so greatly the the
phrase "never again" has true meaning.
"Sometimes in April" is laudable in that the genocide is depicted in individual human terms. It allows us to know both victims and predators. But it fails in explaining how very human characters became murderers. And it glides over the complicity of the French, the failure of the UN to support its mission, and the failure of the West (not just the US) to intervene.
I recommend this movie as a starting point. I found it far more poignant than "Hotel Rwanda". But I am still waiting for movie justice to be done to this tragedy.
This is not an easy movie to watch, but I urge everyone to see it. I
was a struggle not to cry; so I held my breath each time because I knew
the minute I started crying, I would not be able to watch the entire
The movie not only points out the evil people can inflict on each other, it also depicts how silence and avarice can lead to a horrific end.
When people discuss genocide, they go back to Hitler, Pol Pot, etc - this movie goes to show that we still do not care enough about our fellow humans to take care of them and protect them.
There are several ironies in this movie - one of which was the Olympic games. People worldwide were tuned into the Olympics and keeping tabs of the events at the same time others were being butchered.
In 100 days, almost a million people were murdered. It's unimaginable how a tragedy on this scale remains unknown - even scarier is this is proof that it can and possibly will happen again.
This was one of the most moving films I have ever seen. Didn't have the flash of Hotel Rwanda or Schindler's List, but possibly surpassed them in substance. This is not a film for the squeamish, but a film about genocide shouldn't be if it is to deliver its message with maximum effect. Even 11 years on, we in the West get only glimpses into the happenings of the Rwanda Genocide and even fewer in the Western World even attempt to understand the reasons. In just 100 days, over 1 million Tutsis and Moderate Hutus were killed while the world looked the other way. I think this film demonstrated this very well, while at the same time it showed that there were some (Debra Winger's character) in the West who tried everything to help but could do nothing. It doesn't blame the West for the genocide like an uber-liberal, Michael Mooresque America-bashing festival would, but doesn't forgive the West for letting it happen either (which is more than reasonable). "It was Rwandans killing Rwandans", was the line used by the US Army general in the film to give an excuse as to why nothing was done by the outside world. But I think the most important message in this film was that in the living hell that was Rwanda during the genocide, there were still incredible acts of courage and humanity (the Hutu farm wife who sheltered the Matron and the school girls). An aspect of the film that struck hardest with me was how quickly the spiral of madness and slaughter struck so quickly and so terribly. The interplay between the main characters also showed that many of the people who complied in this most evil of crimes were not monsters out of a horror novel, but regular people who through self-interest or ethnic bigotry became the tools of this remarkable insanity. To sum this up, I gave this movie a 10 out of 10. The reason why I did is because this is a movie that should be seen by all. To paraphrase the motto of the survivors of Hitler's Holocaust, "Never again", Sometimes in April reminds us all that we should keep to that promise.
What I'm about to say is as controversial as this film. Just like many
times in the past the events of Rawanda shows the true nature of
man-kinds ability to demean a group or sub-group to such a level that
to take the life of a woman or child bares no moral consequence. What
about the lives of hundreds of thousands women and children? By
broadcasting racial propaganda against the Tutsis the Hutus were able
to use the assassination of their President as a springboard for hate
and genocide towards the Tutsis Rwanda citizens. Hate of another
racial, religious or political group or sub-group is the most used
method of control throughout human history. By classifying the term
"Cock-Roaches" towards the Tutsis the Hutus were able to see them as
less than human making murder more acceptable and without moral
This movie touched me deeply because it showed the true unforgiving brutality of man with very few moments of sincere sympathy towards the cause of the oppressed. Which is the reality of it all. The Beurocracy of the United Nations headed by the US is as much to blame for the Rwanda tragedy as the murdering Hutus which the film every so slightly portrays in its ending. It also shows its glaring hypocrisy in the face of the UN's most recent intrusions. But this film isn't about political finger pointing its about giving First World Society a vision of the Truth. The Atrocities of Rwanda I would hope more than anything put into perspective the world around us and how everything isn't just the peaches and cream that fills most of our daily lives. No matter what hardships we have been through NONE of them compare to what happened to the Tutsie in 94 or the Jews and Chinese in WWII.
The movie ends with a heart-felt message to "Never Forget". But we will. It is the only thing we can do. To accept the tragedy for what it is as something that truly goes on in this world and will inevitably happen again if Political Propaganda so determines it to be beneficial would mean the end of society's self delusional security. If we were a moral race of beings we would of already taken steps to make sure Rwanda would never happen again in ours nor our children's children's lifetimes. But we haven't. And we won't.
I saw this at the Berlin film festival and I think it shoulda won (it got a standing ovation). This film really isn't as pleasant and slick as Hotel Rwanda with its heroic Schilder's List kinda character, but it makes you aware of the whole picture. i actually think they compliment each other well, since this is the more realistic version. I didn't know much about the Rwandan genocide that happened just recently in 1994, where they almost killed a million people, and felt ashamed for the way the Western world, mainly the US and Europeans, looked away, which is the point of the movie. The complicated flashback structure can be a bit confusing, but the film really makes a strong point and shows the creepy way how things get out of hand very quickly. It's heartbreaking and hard to watch sometimes, but it's a powerful and most of all very realistic movie (I read they shot it in Rwanda on location, while Hotel was shot in South Africa).
I saw this last evening at a screening here in LA. I was extremely moved by the content and the way everything was shown. Having it filmed in Rwanda made a big difference. In 1994, I was 14 years old and I honestly did not hear anything about the genocide until 1999 when I was in college and studied it in my Ethnic and Minority Issues class. I was amazed to learn even more from this film. The acting was remarkable. Before the screening a historian talked about the genocide and then the director addressed the audience. His passion for this project was clear, and I think that having it on HBO gave him a lot of artistic freedom I highly recommend seeing this film just for educational value...you will come away impressed and contemplative.
I knew absolutely nothing about this movie when I sat down to watch it.
And, I'm ashamed to say, I knew nothing about Haitian writer-director
Raoul Peck's work, either.
In many ways, "Sometimes in April" perfectly complements "Hotel Rwanda." Augustin Muganza (Idris Elba), Peck's fictional protagonist, winds up seeking refuge in the swank Kigali hotel managed by Paul Rusesabagina. Of course, Peck's actors - Elba, Carole Karemera, Pamela Nomvete, Oris Erhuero, Fraser James et al - aren't as polished as Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo and Nick Nolte, and his writing isn't as crisp as Terry George and Keir Pearson's script. But Peck's movie still packs a hefty punch, thanks to honest performances and some wrenching moments reminiscent of "The Killing Fields" (1984) and "Schindler's List" (1993).
Unlike George's Oscar-nominated movie, "Sometimes in April" doesn't tell just one person's story in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It revolves around a few - Augustin, a moderate Hutu military officer; his brother, Honore, a radical preaching hatred against Tutsis and moderate Hutus on the radio; and Martine, Augustin's fiancée dealing with her own nightmares. Peck also delves into the aftermath of the genocide and the International Criminal Tribunal in Tanzania.
The trials against the war criminals serves as bookends for Peck's plot. It's not a novel device using flashbacks to tell the story. It serves the film, though it's one of the unpolished qualities about Peck's movie. On the other hand, it speaks to the importance of bringing those thugs to justice and also of the survivors' need to tell the world what happened and moving on with their lives.
The performances, for the most part, are rough and raw. That works to the film's advantage. Peck's dialogue isn't exactly crisp. In fact, it seems stilted, at times. But because I didn't know any of the actors by name, their performances held a certain kind of honesty. I was somehow more drawn into their stories than I would have been had, say, their roles been played by better known Americans or Britons.
There are two familiar, recognizable faces - Debra Winger as Assistant Secretary of State Prudence Bushnell and Toby Emmerich as a U.S. military man, both frustrated at being unable to convince their superiors that the United States should get involved to stop the massacres.
Peck gives us a more vivid picture of the slaughter than George did. Peck shows us the huge scale of the massacre. The scenes unsettle us, make us shudder. We see how otherwise considerate, rational people, such as priests, were placed in a horrible bind when faced with possibly giving up some of the children in their care to save others.
Contrary to what some might say, Peck's film isn't anti-American. It's appalling that western nations sat idly by and let these horrific crimes take place and Peck rightly indicts them for their apathy. What Peck does is capture the United States' reluctance to help stop the massacres because the Clinton administration feared another Mogadishu. Let's face it, the American media and government cared little about what was happening because it was happening in Africa and it's a continent the U.S. cares little about. American media was keener on covering Kurt Cobain than the slaughter of tens of thousands of Africans. Even today, the media and public care more about a pop star's trial and a cute, young white bride getting cold feet than another genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
But it's tough to tag Peck as anti-American when he uses real footage of a State Department news conference where the spokeswoman tries to convince the press corps that although there have been "acts of genocide" committed in Rwanda, what was happening wasn't exactly "genocide." The absurdity of the government's argument, the Clinton administration's parsing of words as it tried to weasel out of committing troops to stop what was clearly genocide, is clearly illustrated when a reporter asks, "How many acts of genocide does it take to have a genocide?" The spokeswoman answer is a marvel in government-speak.
True, Peck has the luxury of hindsight to put words into characters' mouths. One Rwandan military official opines the U.S. won't intervene because there's no oil at stake and, later, Emmerich's character predicts what Clinton would do years later. Of course, Clinton apologized later for not intervening to stop the genocide, though it was of no help to those who lost everything. Maybe some day, George W. Bush will apologize to the world and Iraqis for waging an unjust war to prove his mettle and getting absolutely everything wrong leading up to and after the invasion. Yeah, right.
Peck is correct to attack the United States' apathy toward what happened in Rwanda. We can't insist on being the beacon of freedom and democracy to the world and then turn our backs when hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children were being slaughtered. However, Peck doesn't limit his scathing attacks to the U.S. He also criticizes France for its complicity. We see the Rwandan military praising France for providing weapons and, later, we see how the French helped get war criminals out of Rwanda.
"Sometimes in April" could have been more polished. And Peck could have paced his story a bit faster. But those are minor quibbles. Like "Hotel Rwanda," this is a movie that must be seen, if not to see what happened 11 years ago, then to find out how the world's most powerful nations disgraced themselves by doing nothing while 800,000 innocent men, women and children were brutally slaughtered in a mere 100 days.
I have just seen the movie, and for a young person, I was genuinely touched by the substance of this movie. 11 years ago, at the age of the 10, these acts of genocide completely washed over me, and I, like many others just summed it up to yet another tragedy, but I never put it upon myself to learn the history of why this genocide happened. Why there was such conflict in this nation. Seeing this movie, however, has opened my eyes a lot, compelling me to find out more about the history of this nation and the reason behind such hateful violence. This movie did not attempt to gloss over the details, to sell a story. It tried to encapsulate the essence of that time, and the ramifications it had on survivors years later. In 2:30 hours, I feel as if the director and the actors themselves, did a superb job in basically summarizing the events of this tragedy, enough for a person to get a gist of why it happened. Only with a knowledge of history and research would one really know the whole story, but all in all, I found it to be a very poignant movie.
"Sometimes in April" attempts to tell the story of the 1994 wholesale slaughter of about 800,000 mostly innocent people during the 100 day national ordeal when the top blew off the powder keg which Rwanda, Africa had become. This film of civil war and genocide focuses on one man, Augustin (Elba), a Rwandan soldier and his extended family as it jumps around in location and time using his story to connect the dots. Although this HBO docudrama makes a satisfactory dramatic watch, is asks more questions than it answers and leaves one wondering, among other things, how it is possible that so many helpless and innocent people could be savagely murdered by their own countrymen. The historical background and Rwandan zeitgeist are not sufficiently presented but the brutality of the horrific genocide perpetrated by the Hutus upon the Tutsis and Hutu moderates, stands out in bold relief. Snapshots of US State Department bureaucrat Prudence Bushnell's (Winger) frustration with her own government's slow reaction to the crisis and the seemingly inadequate UN war crimes tribunals only hint at the problems associated with intervention in civil strife and prosecution of war criminals. Overall, the film is a worthwhile entertaining and educational watch with language, violence, sex/rape thoughtfully maintained at a level which would probably yield about a PG-13 rating. (B)
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