Who is my neighbor?: Kinyarwanda *CIFF
The 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide gets a panoramic investigation in Alrick Brown’s Kinyarwanda. Through a series of vignettes we see neighbors and strangers transformed into enemies and saviors as machete waving rogues terrorize Tutsi citizens. These separate stories begin to coalesce into one powerful narrative of forgiveness, faith, sorrow, and loss.
We start with Jeanne, the daughter of a Hutu man and Tutsi woman, who narrowly escapes death by visiting her boyfriend, a Hutu. Finding her parents massacred, she has no where to go and joins a band of refugees seeking shelter and protection from the murderous militia. That band includes a Tutsi Catholic Priest who finds salvation in the friendship and partnership with an Imam who opens his mosque to Tutsi refugees. Looking over them all is Lieutenant Rose, a solider trying to lead many Tutsi to an UN safe zone.
In Kinyarwanda, we see the brutality of the massacre of Tutsi families and the bravery of people who stood up to protect neighbors. Even more impressive, Director Alrick Brown shows us Rwanda 10 years after that violent period to a rehabilitation and reconciliation camp for people responsible for the atrocities. Seeing these men admit to their crimes, some obfuscating the extent of their responsibility and others narrating with great detail everything they did was even more chilling.
In these confession sessions led by Lieutenant Rose, she helps them to understand the insurmountable obstacles victims will have to vaunt to forgive these men. ”Forgiveness is asking for a miracle.” Indeed, when over 1 million Tutsi and sympathizers were murdered in little under a year during the genocide. Through the stories during the massacre, we see these killings were both anonymous and fueled by personal animosity hiding behind the mob’s blood lust. Yet, through these reconciliation scenes, we see the pain of trying to forgive and move on with life after so much has been stolen. In all, Kinyarwanda is a haunting film about this dark period in our world’s history and a reminder that we must vigilant to never let it happen again.
NYFA Faculty Member Selected for Prestigious Emerging Visions Program Run by Lincoln Center/IFP
NYFA Instructor Lanre Olabisi
New York Film Academy instructor Lanre Olabisi has been selected for a collaborative program between The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) called Emerging Visions. Olabisi, one of the 25 filmmakers nominated for the program, will have the opportunity to meet some of the most prolific directors and producers in the industry at an event scheduled to run concurrently with the New York Film Festival. The list includes NYFA graduate Lisa Cortes (exec prod. Precious), Jon Kilik (long-time Spike Lee producer); Brian Koppelman (writer, Ocean’s Thirteen); actor Philip Seymour Hoffman; Doug Liman (dir. The Bourne Identity); Shari Springer Berman (dir. American Splendor); Alex Orlovsky (prod. Blue Valentine).
Joana Vicente, Executive Director, IFP, and Rose Kuo, Executive Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center comment that the filmmakers selected for the program are “a group of hardworking, talented, and visionary emerging artists.” Olabisi is the director and co-writer of feature film August the First, which took home the Best Feature Film award at the Birmingham Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival and the Audience Award at the Urbanworld Film Festival. The film also earned an IFP Gotham Award nomination, as well as prizes at six international film festivals including top prizes at The Milwaukee International Film Festival and The San Francisco Black Film Festival. In addition, Olabisi’s script for Highway to Nowhere was the winning screenplay in the 2009 Atlanta Film Festival. Olabisi has been on the faculty for three years and currently teaches in five departments at New York Film Academy.
New York Film Academy also extends a congratulations to recent NYFA guest speaker Alrick Brown, director of Sundance Film Festival Audience Choice winner Kinyarwanda, who will also be part of Emerging Visions.
NY Film Academy Faculty Produce and Star in Sundance Award Winning Hit Movie!
New York Film Academy Acting Instructor Cassandra Freeman stars as Rose in Kinyarwanda
When Roger Ebert gave feature film Kinyarwanda four stars, he commented, “I thought I knew something about Rwanda, but I didn’t really know very much. I was moved by Hotel Rwanda but not really shaken this deeply. Not like this…Here is a powerful film.” Behind the project are New York Film Academy Acting Professor Cassandra Freeman, star of Kinyarwanda, and Producing Professor Darren Dean, who is responsible for producing the film along with Ishmael Ntihabose, Tommy Oliver, and Deatra Harris. The film interweaves six different tales that together to form one grand narrative, providing a complex and real depiction of human resilience and life during the genocide.
Poster for hit film Kinyarwanda, produced by New York Film Academy instructor Darren Dean
Kinyarwanda’s many recognitions have included winning the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival, the World Cinema Audience Award at AFI Fest, the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Starz Denver Film Fest. The film is now playing at select theaters throughout the country including at AMC Theaters in Times Square, New York.
Cassandra says, “I’m also a teacher at New York Film Academy. If you’re an actor and you have a lot of things going on, it helps inform your work and it gives you a toolbox of emotions and different perspectives. You can’t just act all the time.”
Cassandra, whose other credits include playing Denzel Washington’s wife in Spike Lee’s Inside Man and the funny best friend in Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife, comments in a recent interview that the experience of playing Lt. Rose Kabuye was more than just learning lines: ”I shaved off my hair. I shaved it off until there was about a half inch of afro and I let that grow in. I actually lived with a real Rwandan family, so I underwent a cultural transformation as well. I had a mom, dad, sister, and brother. So I really had the chance to absorb the culture of Rwanda.”
To learn more about the film including where the film will next be screening, check out http://www.kinyarwandamovie.com/