Rwanda, Africa-in-Motion, Cannes PanAfricaine
Survivors of the Rwandan genocide explore the importance of photographic memory.
Exploring the lasting impact of the horrific murder of nearly a million Rwandans over the course of 100 days 25 years ago, Cieplak’s thoughtful project seeks to explore questions of representation, as grounded in photographic remains of victims. While disturbing images of the slaughter have become part of the historic record, the filmmaker here instead focuses on other photographs – ones that celebrate life, not death. Survivors tell the heartbreaking stories of their loved ones, display the few remaining images they have of them – family snapshots or official IDs – and discuss the importance these remnants play in coping with their loss. Similarly, museum archivists take on similar work on a larger scale, helping to reframe national collective memory of the trauma. Though a bit repetitive and overextended, the film succeeds in helping to humanize a mass tragedy, and force more complex reflection on our view of Rwanda and the genocide.