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Jennifer Merin

My Neighbor, My Killer: Reflecting and Effecting Peace in Rwanda

By July 25, 2010

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My Neighbor, My Killer, Anne Aghion's profoundly moving documentary about ongoing reconciliation efforts in post-genocide Rwanda, has been screened at leading film festivals around the world, including the Cannes Film Festival and Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, among others.

The film, which is the third in Aghion's series about post-genocide Rwanda, documents public reconciliation hearings in one village, where Tutsi genocide victims confront their Hutu neighbors who slaughtered their husbands, children and other family members, demanding that the Hutus confess publicly -- before they publicly forgive them. It is a painful process, but one which is necessary for citizens to embrace so that their country can function and move forward. Such hearings were conducted throughout Rwanda.

The documentary, which is strictly verite in style, shows that relationships are reformed by the public hearings, but it also raises awareness that this essential process is a very fragile one. Lingering long after the film is over is the question as to whether the process can and will create a truly stable environment in which Hutus and Tutsis can and will live peacefully with each other. Screenings of My Neighbor, My Killer are always followed by serious discussions about genocide in Rwanda and elsewhere, and about the truth and reconciliation process.

Aghion, who filmed in Rwanda for a decade, is deeply committed to the cause of peace, and, working with Tutsi historian Assumpta Mugiraneza, has made it her goal that the documentary be shown throughout Rwanda. It's now likely that goal will be realized in 2011.

Oxfam-Novib, the Dutch foundation which partly funded the documentary's production, agreed to support several test screenings in Rwanda to measure the film's impact and help to determine the best way to conduct post-screening discussions at a nationwide series of screenings to be launched next year.

Additionally, on July My Neighbor, My Killer was screened in Rwanda at an event hosted by Rwanda's First Lady, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, with all present and past government members and their spouses present. According to Assumpta Mugiraneza, the post-screening discussion lasted for several hours and was extremely positive.

Mrs. Mugiraneza collected quotes from some of the government officials who attended and passed them on. Here they are:

  • Joseph Habineza, Minister of Culture: "I have watched this film three times ... this is the type of documentary that I dream we could make in Rwanda. Beyond the work of the filmmaker that I respect, this is a document of the utmost historical sociological and political importance for Rwanda! It is a film that MUST be shown, not just in Rwanda and in the Great Lakes Region, but far from Rwanda so that others can know what we do here."
  • Jean Damascene Ntawukurirayayo, Vice President of Parliament, former Minister of Health: "The people we see in this film are real every day Rwandans who carry the weight of their history, but have the determination to go on living. They recognize their own history. They do not cheat like we politicians sometimes tend to do. This documentary is of the utmost importance for the past, for the present and for the future. Our children will appreciate it better than we do. It is a singular work that should be shown to the whole Rwandan population: young, old, adult, from the countryside, from the city, educated or not... We politicians should understand the pedagogical value of this film and start using it at once.
    Those who fear this film, simply fear looking at themselves and looking at Rwanda like it is."
  • Bishop John Rucyahana, President of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission: "This is more than a film. It is Rwandan reality as we are not used to seeing it. It really shows us Rwandans as we are."
  • Sheikh Mussa Fazil Harerimana, Minister of the Interior: "We have to acknowledge when we watch this film, that regular people are far ahead of us politicians. They are not afraid to speak the truth and to show their feelings."

My Neighbor, My Killer is a documentary that can effect change in Rwanda and beyond. In order for that to happen, people must see the film. Make sure that you do.

Meanwhile, visit the film's official Website and read my review.

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