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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 04:03 GMT
Genocide movie premiere in Rwanda
By Robert Walker
BBC, Kigali

HBO's Sometimes in April
Sometimes in April used many Rwandan actors
A new film on the Rwandan genocide received its world premiere in the capital, Kigali, this weekend in front of the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, and a crowd of several thousand.

Sometimes in April was shown on a huge screen in an emotional occasion at the Amahoro stadium, one of the many locations where Tutsis sought refuge during the genocide.

Some members of the audience, which included survivors of the killings, were in tears as they watched events of 1994 recreated.

"It was difficult to watch the film, it's always difficult to remember what happened here. But this will help future generations to understand what happened in Rwanda," said Martin Semukanya who lost many members of his family.

Sometimes in April tells the story of a Hutu army officer who is married to a Tutsi. He becomes separated from his wife at the start of the genocide.

Ten years later he is still trying to find out what happened to her and their two children.

Rwandan story

The film was the first big budget feature depicting the events of 1994 to be shot on location in Rwanda, and used many Rwandan actors and extras.

Poster
The film is one of several being made, 10 years after the genocide

"Making a film here meant making a film with the Rwandan people. I just consider myself the medium for them to express their own story," said the film's Haitian director, Raoul Peck.

Mr Peck returned to Kigali for two special screenings this weekend, fulfilling a promise he made at the start of filming.

"For me it was a moral contract that the first public to see the film should be the people here in Rwanda. I wasn't sure how it would be received but the event was incredible. I had a great response when I was coming out of the stadium."

Consciences

The film explores the failure of the world to intervene as Rwanda descended into chaos.

The story is told in flashbacks with the action moving between Rwanda, New York and the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania.

Haitian director Raoul Peck
The director promised to return to Rwanda to show the film

Real life events are powerfully recreated at these different levels.

But in telling the story of one family while also describing the broader context of how the genocide unfolded, the film has to pack a lot into just over two hours.

Sometimes in April is one of a wave of films made about the genocide in the past year. Hotel Rwanda was nominated at this month's Golden Globe awards and a third film, Shooting Dogs, will be released shortly.

"Possibly these films are being made 10 years on because people are grumbling with their consciences, and there is a story to tell to prevent such acts from happening somewhere else. I really appreciate the efforts being made about it," said Rwanda's Minister of Local Government, Protais Musoni, after watching the premiere of Sometimes in April.

The three films look at different aspects of the genocide of an estimated 800,000 people, most of them Tutsis. The killing only stopped when the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took control of Rwanda in mid 1994.

Revenge?

But the films do not address the sensitive issue of revenge killings by the RPF.

Its soldiers have been accused of murdering tens of thousands of Hutu civilians in 1994 although only a handful have since been brought to justice.

The RPF government still keeps a tight grip on Rwanda, and kept a careful eye on the making of Sometimes in April.

Mr Peck rejects the suggestion his film should have included this aspect of Rwanda's tragic recent history.

"I don't think you can mix genocide and whatever killing happened. Do we go into what certain parts of the American army and Allied forces did in France when they were re-conquering it from the Nazis? If there are criminal actions which have been taken they have to be judged but don't mix the issues."

Sometimes in April will be competing in the Berlin Film Festival in February and broadcast in the United States on the Home Box Office cable television network on 19 March.




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