Munyurangabo (2007)

Too loosely-structured to work compellingly, though some may find this restrained take on the psychological impact of the Rwandan genocide on two boys (of opposing ethnicity) poetic.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Lee Isaac Chung
2007 | Rwanda | Drama | 97 mins | Kinyarwanda
Not rated (but likely to be PG13 for some mature themes)

Cast: Jeff Rutagengwa, Eric Ndorunkundiye, Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka
Plot: From opposing ethnicities, Ngabo and Sangwa are tested when old-timers warn, “Hutus and Tutsis should not be friends”.
Awards: Nom. for Un Certain Regard Award & Camera d’Or (Cannes)
Source: Almond Tree Films

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Review #1,757

(Reviewed on screener)

Spoilers: No

Like some of you, my first encounter with the 1994 Rwandan genocide was through Hotel Rwanda (2004), starring Don Cheadle.  Although at times emotionally-manipulative, the film was mainstream enough to appeal to most audiences.  Well, at least it made me want to read up more on the shocking massacre.

At the other end of the spectrum of films depicting the subject matter, however, we have this curious independent arthouse work with a near-unpronounceable title. Shot in the heart of Rwanda, Munyurangabo is the feature debut of Korean-American Lee Isaac Chung, who not only wrote and directed the film, but produced, shot and edited it too.

Isn’t it fascinating to see a person make a film from out of his comfort zone, and thus provide an outsider’s perspective to history? Some will find this story of two young boys (of opposing ethnicity—Hutu and Tutsi) struggling to find meaningful purpose in their lives poetic, but it may be too slow for others.

Its loose structure and restrained direction is a double-edged sword—it doesn’t quite compel yet affords space and time to gently explore the psychological impact on a new generation of Rwandans, who may be able to live with one another peacefully.

Perhaps that’s what Chung is looking for—in a country traumatised by bloodshed and deep-seated hate, can there be calm and meditation?  This is also the first ever film shot fully in the native Kinyarwanda language.

Grade: B



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