24 September 2006 | tollini
Truly moving Picture
I am a judge for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival. This feature film is a Crystal Heart Award Winner and is eligible to be the Grand Prize Winner in October of 2006. The Heartland Film Festival is a non-profit organization that honors Truly Moving Pictures. A Truly Moving Picture "
explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life."
As the film starts, I first thought that "Hotel Rwanda" told this story, albeit differently, and there was no reason to do it again. As the story progresses, my next thought was that you can never stop telling this story again and again 800,000 dead, mostly Tutsis, at the hands of the Hutus, the majority in power. "The Diary of Anne Frank" could not tell the whole story of another genocide 45 years earlier when the Nazis slaughtered many millions of Jews. There was room, and a need for "Schindler's List."
This film revolves around a school in Rwanda in 1994 under siege. Inside of the school are many black Tutsi students, a UN peace-keeping force with a sympathetic Belgium Captain, a dedicated young white teacher, and the school head, a Catholic priest named Christopher, played brilliantly by John Hurt. The school is surrounded by machete-bearing Hutus waiting for the chance to kill any Tutsi they find whether they are a baby, a woman, an old man, simply any Tutsi, who they, the Hutus, derisively call cockroaches. Mans' inhumanity to man could not be displayed in a more ugly fashion.
What does a well meaning, civilized person do when confronted with indescribable savagery? Run for safety or futilely stay and die?
This question is answered differently by different characters. The priest is losing all hope, but is innately courageous and focused on his faith. The UN Captain is sympathetic, but like any soldier feels driven to follow orders even if his superiors are remote and insensitive. The white teacher has great affection for the Tutsis, but is just starting out in life. A BBC reporter leaves the under siege school when first given the chance and states what might be true for most of us: "We're all selfish people in the end."
"Hotel Rwanda" was nominated for three Academy Awards for acting and writing. This film has the same high caliber of acting and writing as well as art direction and directing. It is moving without being exploitive. It is true, compelling storytelling that will haunt you for a long time to come.
The headlines about the genocide in Darfur in the Western Sudan will have a new unsettling meaning for you.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where you can find a listing of past Crystal Heart Award winners as well as other Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.