Film revisits role of women in genocide

Monday April 26 2021
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Some of the inmates as depicted in the film. PHOTO | COURTESY


Women are rarely directly associated with wars. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis drew both women and men to the war. The film Rwanda; l’impossible pardon (Rwanda; the impossible forgiveness), brings to light the genocide aaftermaths, encompassing not only regret but difficult healing process.

Produced in 2014, as Rwanda marked its 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsis, the 90 minutes documentary film, an original Kinyarwanda version with French subtitles, directed by Alexandre Westphal and Violaine Baraduc depicts participation of women during the genocide.

Shot in the then Kigali Central prison between 2011 and 2013, among women prisoners, it features people who were charged and are serving a sentence for Genocide atrocities. The fi lm introduces audience to eight women, who through interviews testify with regret the dark plot that befell Rwanda in April 1994.

Led by Immaculée and her co-inmates, the women narrate their vivid participation in the cruelty that saw over 800,000 people dead, and how it was organised.

In their account, they reveal how from their parents, ideas had been long passed onto them, the relationships Tutsis had with Hutus, which was regarded as rivalry; hence society being raised with wrong perceptions about history which sparked the 1994 tragedy.

These testimonies further bring to light how women participated in the brutality during the 1994 Genocide,’ against Tutsi and reflection on how this would have otherwise at least been stopped to save lives. Though a few were among the top leadership and knew about the wicked plot ahead of its spark, humanity when they kept silent about it all.


Still haunted by the massacres of the 1994 bloodshed, and in which ethnic turmoil persisted, the film narrows into Immaculée, whose life was guttered by the whole incident.

As she serves her term, outside the prison walls Jérôme, the son to Immaculée, is torn between a tough situation of the perpetrators and their victims, 20 years a­ er the tragic events. Born of a Tutsi father, and Immaculée, a Hutu, who during the 1994 genocide plotted her husband’s massacre, Jérôme hardly finds the words to tell his story.

The relationship with his mother has been put in greater test, as one between the hope of reconciliation and an impossible dialogue, which takes us to sail and feel the pain partly shared by the country.

“To this day, I find it harder to recognise her as a mother, Jerome painfully speaks, “What she got involved into wasn’t a motherly act at all!” He adds. He lives a life of self-rejection as even amid society, he partly carries his mother’s stain, which he, in turn, blames his mother for. He tries to connect with the terms unity and reconciliation.

Although Immaculée apologies, Jerome is torn amidst what to believe and heal, “No one involved in such brutality, would remain a parent still,” he brokenheartedly laments. All he confides in are his sisters and their grandmother.

The film, which held its first official Rwandan screening in April 2014 at Kigali’s Goethe institute, but has since then toured countries worldwide, takes minds not only into the painful recount of the 1994 tragedy but the struggle and dilemma there is into and through the process that the 1994 Genocide survivors trail through as they embark on the desired Unity and Reconciliation chapter.