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Rwandan Documentary Remembers Genocide


A new documentary by Rwandan filmmaker, Eric Kabera, is being shown in Ougadougou at the Pan African Film Fesival. The film takes a unique and brutal approach to memorializing the 1994 genocide.

Next month marks the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide - a killing campaign that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi and moderate Hutu.

The documentary, Iseta, The Story Behind the Roadblock, tells the personal stories behind the only film footage of actual killings during the 1994 genocide.

British cameraman Nick Hughes, returns 15 years later with the footage to the community where the murders took place to find the victims' relatives, the survivors, and the perpetrators.

From an audio clip of the film, this: "there was just quiet massacres, family by family, road by road, roadblock by roadblock people were being exterminated."

"They just killed the mother and left the baby crying," a man says. Another viewer says, "Look he's going to hit the baby!"A woman covering her eyes asks, "Who filmed this?"

Cameraman Nick Hughes says the footage is an essential tool to understanding what really happened.

"People do not realize what the Rwandan genocide was and that is the power of a picture - you cannot deny what you are seeing," Hughes said.

Eric Kabera is the film's producer and co-director.

"This film is about memory. This documentary practically observes and depicts the men and women who were killed on the famous roadblock, which many people did not know where it was, who were the killers and who were the victims. So the documentary's intention is really to reveal that and to bring family members to come to a closure to the death of their families," Kabera said.

Kabera says the footage, which shows the beating and killing of Tutsis on a dirt road, is a microcosm of what happened in the larger genocide.

"It is gruesome, it is brutal, it is vivid, it is present. So it sort of revives and brings back the memory quite vividly because of that footage. But it was very very important at this particular moment of time to actually go back 15 years later and to bring a certain closure to the victims and bring to life the perpetrators of the genocide," he said.

The film interviews witnesses, survivors and relatives of those killed at the roadblock and shows them watching the footage of the killings.

Albert is a roadblock survivor.

Albert says what hurt the most was his friend Gabriel's death. The others had already been killed when Albert got there, but he saw the death of Gabriel. He says Gabriel knelt down like a good Christian, raised his hands and asked, 'What have I done to deserve this?'

The film then cuts to the footage of Gabriel praying with his arms in the air, the bodies of his loved ones on the ground around him.

Kabera is aware that the film will be upsetting for many Rwandan viewers.

"We have to find a way to show it in a very respectful way and in a less traumatic way because the film is very disturbing emotionally. It is not very graphic, but I think that the emotion around it and the psychology of the memories are just too gruesome," Kabera said.

On the other hand, he says, the film is important as a way to keep the memory alive and to expose people to the realities of the atrocities committed.

Rwanda's National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide will mark the 15th anniversary on April 6. Kabera's film has been chosen to commemorate the genocide and will be screened widely in Europe, America and Rwanda.

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