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Local Filmmaker Presents Documentary on Hope in Rwanda

Springfield-based documentary filmmaker Patrick Mureithi has finished his latest work, which examines reconciliation workshops in Rwanda that bring together survivors of the genocide and perpetrators. His film consists of footage and interviews he gathered in Rwanda last summer. KSMU's Missy Shelton recently spoke with Patrick Mureithi about his film.

Shelton: Patrick, when you got back from Rwanda and started looking at your footage, was it hard to choose what to put in the film and what to leave out?

Mureithi: Yes it was difficult. I had about 36 hours of footage. Most of it, I felt was very powerful, especially once I got it translated. The things the participants of the workshop were saying were so deep and moving for me that I wanted to include as much as possible. In editing, we have a saying: killing your darlings. And I basically had to do that. I had to get rid of large portions I thought were powerful but didn't contribute to the rhythm or pace of the story.

Shelton: Some of the best documentaries take a broad issue/story and tell it through the lens of one or two individuals...Is this the approach you take?

Mureithi: I think the broader story is the genocide and the fact that there's a nation with millions of people that are still traumatized. There's definitely the danger of retaliatory killings. During the workshop, I focused on a Tutsi lady and I focused on a perpetrator. The survivor's experience was similar to many other survivors: she lost a lot of relatives, all the relatives her age. I felt her story was representative of many other's stories. The perpetrator was told either kill or be killed. That's what a lot of the perpetrators said. That really was the case. In the genocide, you had 800,000 to a million people who lost their lives. Not all of them were Tutsis. Some of them were Hutu, moderate Hutus, people who didn't believe in what was happening. A lot of them took part because otherwise, something terrible would happen to them and their family. He was remorseful for what he'd done...the guilt. He really was looking for forgiveness though he didn't recognize that initially. On the second day, he said he didn't know he was traumatized but now he knows. I observed him talking to the survivor. After that, they sat down and had lunch. The survivor said she never thought she'd sit down with someone from the other tribe and have lunch. So, this workshop brought them to a place where they could openly grieve about what they'd been through but yet it provided them tools to let down their guard, to really listen to each other. For the most part, they came to the conclusion they were more similar than different and the only way they would overcome their trauma was by forgiving each other.

Shelton: Tell us about your plans to return to Rwanda for a film festival.

Mureithi: I was invited to the Rwanda Film Festival. The first week of it, they call Hillywood. They travel to rural areas, set up a giant screen, and they have anywhere from 6,000-10,000 people come out to watch the films. The audience is going to watch a documentary that shows Hutus and Tutsis come together and resolve their conflicts and face their trauma. It's my hope that they'll be motivated to inquire about the workshop and they can attend. That way the process can be accelerated.

Shelton: Will you visit with the two individuals who are the focus of your documentary?

Mureithi: I'm going to stay for two extra weeks and spend one week with each of the individuals...hopefully get more insights into this journey of forgiveness and it is a journey. We keep in touch. But I would like to document this process.

Shelton: What lesson is there in their stories for people in places like the Ozarks?

Mureithi: I think there's a lot to be learned. Personally, it's been life changing for me: to see two sides from the most brutal genocide (100 million people in 100 days) see people from these two sides come together, initially wary of each other but through being educated about post-traumatic stress disorder, through group exercises that build trust, they let down their walls and made a conscious effort to reach out to each other and rebuild their community. I think anyone with an interest in conflict resolution would benefit from this story...and that should be everyone. Here in the Ozarks, we unfortunately, have high rates of domestic abuse which I believe is a result of failing to communicate. These workshops taught participants ways to communicate without pointing the finger. It's something that works at a community level but also at a family level...It made my problems very miniscule. It made me realize nothing is too large to be addressed, that there are constructive ways to settle dispute.

Shelton: The title of the film is Icyizere: Hope. Why did you pick that for your title?

Mureithi: When I found out about the genocide, I was devastated, honestly. It depressed me. I couldn't believe people could do this to each other. I lost a certain basic trust I had in humanity when I saw these images. When I heard about the workshops that were going on in Rwanda, it gave me a sense of hope. It was very personal reasons that led me to want to make this documentary. This world is definitely in need of more hope.

Shelton: You can see the documentary on reconciliation efforts in Rwanda at a screening March 6th at 6PM in Clara Thompson Hall on the campus of Drury University. And filmmaker Patrick Mureithi is raising funds through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks for his upcoming trip to Rwanda for the Rwanda Film Festival.