Sometimes in April

By Raoul Peck

Translation by Céline Dewaele.
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Sometimes in April clearly differs from the other fictions made on the Rwandan Genocide (100 days, Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs) by its will to be complex. The other films had based their stories on heroes trying to overcome the horror by reconstructions based on « real facts », pulling the spectator only into sentimental terror and desperation and eventually closing with a comforting happy end, affirming the necessity of humanity. On the contrary, Peck draws his inspiration from reality in order to transpose it to the different strata of an entirely constructed script. There are no good victims or bad genocide perpetrators but, through the relationship between two brothers, Augustin and Honoré, whose choices oppose, the complexity of a country that has drifted away emerges.
Opening the film with a historical reminder and colonial images, Peck deliberately fixes the genocide in a historical process in which colonization has not led to civilization but dissension, at the origin of contemporary tragedies. Assigning Augustin the role of a schoolteacher and facing him to his pupils who wonder, ten years later, how their parents managed to come to that, he makes of the question of memory the mainspring of a reflection with an educational vocation. Fiction is only here to give substance to the story, recall the emotions, remember the different experiences and pass on the marks left by the tragedy.
Past and present are interwoven by a game of flashbacks, from 1994 to the actual law process and from the international Arusha court to the gacaca, the People’s court.
Of course, memory is painful and difficult to grasp. It is cries through the wall of a hotel, Augustin who struggles to see his brother again… But remembrance is possible if one agrees to go back to the facts: justice plays a major role and is the only place where things can be and must be told. And justice is necessary, as is the film to the Rwandan population because it does not dispossess them of their memory or take it over. On the contrary, it answers their request to tell the world what their terrible experience is teaching them. The film stands in the current political and human affairs about the conflict for power, which causes conflicts nearly all around the world. Abuses are only the result of a political interest in domination and appropriation and not the doing of the big, bad and inhuman. It is a nation that is tearing itself apart, where everyone carries the marks of History.
The genocide was only possible because Rwanda was abandoned by the international community. The film straight out superposes the denunciation of two scandals: the role played by France, who trained the army and supplied the weapons to then protect the genocide perpetrators with the human shield from the Opération Turquoise, not without having beforehand evacuated its citizens and them only; and the United Nations’ inability to intervene, due to its lack of knowledge about the territory and the questions on vocabulary in the American administration, which would be laughable if they weren’t tragic. The idea was that the administration was reluctant to give the name of genocide (and therefore to take action) to what was, on the ground, an organized massacre of hundreds of thousands of people.
Shot in Rwanda with a team in which the Rwandan hold an important place, Sometimes in April is anything but the Machiavellian vision of an outsider. Between the two brothers, there is opposition and sharing at the same time. Augustin is not the good victim but an officer who compromised when facing ideological toughening and hid from the reality of the preparation of the abuses. Honoré is not a cold-hearted genocide perpetrator but a man who put his life in danger to help his mixed family. Both put together represent the complexity of a country which has slipped in the worst possible way without knowing where it was going. The genocide is an absolute tragedy and the film does not have a happy ending. This is not a Hollywood film: death does not spare the protagonists. A staggering vision: from stinking swamps arise ghosts who think they are not alive anymore.
One will have to find what will keep one alive, like that laughter that the pupils shared when watching Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. And above all, find the strength to testify so that no revisionist deny tomorrow what was the martyrdom and the suicide of a people, so that people stay vigilant when, as Bretch concluded in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui: « The womb, from which the hideous beast came out, is still fertile ». Sometimes in April does it admirably, without lapsing into entertainment, with respect for the complexity of its subject.

///Article N° : 5920


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