Starring Jeff Rutagengwa and Eric Ndorunkundiye. In Kinyarwanda with English subtitles.Unrated. Plays Friday to Monday, November 27 to 30, at the Vancity Theatre
Munyurangabo is a small, quiet film with big implications. It's one of those movies where knowing the story behind the scenes will give you more appreciation of the humble, hand-held one on-screen.
Watch the trailer for Munyurangabo.
Armed with a stolen machete, teen friends Ngabo (Jeff Rutagengwa) and Sangwa (Eric Ndorunkundiye) leave Kigali, Rwanda, penniless and on foot, for vengeance. They are headed back to Ngabo's home village, which was ravaged during the 1994 genocide. But first they stop at the family mud dwelling Sangwa left three years beforehand, where his Hutu parents welcome him back into a life of working the fields. But growing tension between the Tutsi Ngabo and the family start to test both the boys' friendship and mission.
The cast is clearly not professional, and the film has some long, drawn-out scenes set along the dusty pathways of rural Rwanda. But view Munyurangabo knowing these actors are all orphans and returned refugees themselves, corralled by Korean-American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung for a meagre 11-day shoot, and the movie takes on more depth.
What Chung has achieved here is no small feat. He has revealed to the outside world how the 15-year-old genocide continues to poison Rwanda. He has captured a culture with an intimacy and sympathetic eye you'd only expect from someone who grew up in that country. There's a slice-of-life accuracy here—just watch Sangwa help his father fix a wall by flinging patties of mud at it—whose mundane details are all the more haunting when you think about the insane bloodbath that predated them.
Couldn't these stories be told more powerfully through the people themselves, in documentary form? Perhaps. But late into its last act, Chung steers the movie into a surprisingly deep meditation on revenge and forgiveness—into poetry, literal and figurative.