Documentary Icyizere: Hope sheds light to recovery after genocide
Blinded. Her eyes covered with a cloth and in the hands of a man who helped kill 1 million other people just like her.
But instead of being led to the Commune Rouge where many captured Rwandans were taken and killed in 1994, Mamma Aline was participating in a trust walk at a reconciliation workshop a decade after.
“ICYIZERE: Hope” is a documentary that follows the recovery story of genocide widow Mamma Aline and many other Rwandans who are still trying to recover psychologically.
Patrick Mureithi, the director of the film, came to Meredith Hall on Nov. 2 to share his documentary.
Mureithi, a man who was 17 years old and living in Kenya in 1994, wasn’t exposed to Rwanda’s destruction while it was happening.
“I was two countries away and I was oblivious to what was going on,” he said. “I believed humans were inherently good.”
After watching “Ghosts of Rwanda” in 2004, Mureithi understood the seriousness of the situation and felt depressed about the genocide that hit so close to his home.
About a year later, he decided to take action.
That’s when Mureithi was exposed to the reconciliation workshop in Rwanda that Mamma Aline attended. The workshop, called Healing and Rebuilding Our Community (HROC), brings together 10 survivors and 10 perpetrators from the genocide for three days to conduct group exercises in hopes of building understanding and trust.
“This is either too good to be true or, if this is in fact true, this is a story that has to be told,” Mureithi said after first hearing about the workshop.
Three years later, “ICYIZERE: Hope“ was completed.
The documentary began with a timeline starting in 1884 when Africa was being divided, to the start of the genocide in 1994. It then went to personal stories of survivors and perpetrators who have gone to the HROC workshop.
“I thought it was really interesting,” Monsicha Hoonsuwan said. “It’s the side of genocide no one really talks about.”
And that’s exactly what Mureithi was striving for. He wanted to expose people around the world, and especially those in Rwanda, to a bigger picture of forgiveness.
“It’s really about the human story,” Mureithi said. “It is refusing your past to affect your future.”
Des Moines’ Center for Global Citizenship, which strives to educate students to function effectively in different cultural contexts, put on the event. Darcie Vandegrift, the interim director, thought Mureithi would be a good edition to the fall series of speakers.
“I want people to think beyond national borders,” Vandegrift said. “To develop a sense of compassion and to have more awareness of the ’94 genocide.”
Some students who viewed the documentary were blown away by the personal reconciliation stories.
“I don’t think I could go through that kind of healing,” Jonathon Moore said. “Mamma Aline was such a strong person, especially in the light of what she faced.”
But Mureithi saw forgiveness over and over again while he was at the workshop.
“There’s no shame in being broken,” he said. “The real shame is when we don’t do anything about it.”
The documentary’s viewing debut was in 2008 at the Rwanda Film Festival. The festival lasted seven days as they traveled to seven towns. Audiences ranging from three to 7,000 people gathered to watch on a gigantic, inflatable screen.
From college campuses in the United States to the prisons in Rwanda, Mureithi now travels around the world to share his production.
After the violence in Kenya during the 2008 elections, Mureithi hopes to go back home before the next election in 2011 to present the power of peace to his people.
As Mamma Aline was arm-in-arm with her enemy that first day at HROC, she learned the importance of trust and the need for mutual understanding.
“How can a blind person lead another blind person?” Mamma Aline asked.