A new film called Rwanda Rising looks at the African nation 12 years after the Rwandan genocide. Mike O'Sullivan reports, the documentary produced by Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, had its premiere in Los Angeles.
Ethnic tensions in Rwanda led to the killings of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994. In 2004, Andrew Young attended a memorial to mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide. Returning to the United States, he saw several films about the killings, but said the films were showing only part of the story.
"So I got a film crew to go with me the next time, and we just took pictures of the people," said Young. "We tried to let the people tell their own story and let the film show how far they have come in healing the wounds of this horrible event, which is now 12-years-old."
The resulting documentary, Rwanda Rising, opened at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. It shows rebuilding efforts at the grassroots level.
Clip from Film: "This is a coffee cooperative of 2,000 coffee growers and their families. And of those 2,000 people, 800 are women. And of those 800 women, about half of them are widows of the genocide."
Andrew Young lives in Atlanta. Today he helps run a company called GoodWorks International, which promotes investment in Africa and the Caribbean. He says when Americans hear African news, it is usually bad news.
"But that is the way the news is," he said. "We always say, even in Atlanta, if it bleeds, it leads. I understand that. But that is why it is important for some of us to tell the good stories, the stories of healing, the stories of prosperity, not just poverty, and the stories of political unity after a tremendous conflict like this."
The film has interviews with Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Paul Wolfowitz of the World Bank.
Former President Bill Clinton also appears in the film, impressed with the way the two Rwandan ethnic groups have come together in villages that foster reconciliation.
"I never cease to be shocked by the way the Hutus and the Tutsis live together in these reconciliation villages, the stories they have of their experiences during that horrible period and their refusal to let it shape the rest of their lives," said Bill Clinton.
Music producer Quincy Jones also appears in the film and he attended its premiere in Los Angeles. Jones has been to Africa many times, and tells VOA that, too often, those outside the continent are poorly informed about it.
"Because there are many sides of Africa, and until you take the time to go out and take the energy and the compassion to go out and explore what the differences are - there is a big difference in South Africa and Johannesburg, and Darfur, or Kigali," said Quincy Jones.
The Rwandan capital of Kigali still has tensions, but Jones says the Rwandans are resilient and are moving on.
Andrew Young says there are many bright spots in Africa, despite the news stories of poverty, conflict and disease. He says South Africa is one bright spot, and Nigeria is another.
"We hear about the bloodshed in the Niger Delta, which is real," he said. "But Nigeria is [more than] 120 million people. And people are moving together."
He says Nigeria has an elected civilian government, and has moved from a budget deficit to a budget surplus.