Sometimes in April

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Sometimes in April
Sometimes in april.jpg
Directed by Raoul Peck
Produced by Daniel Delume
Written by Raoul Peck
Starring Idris Elba
Oris Erhuero
Carole Karemera
Debra Winger
Music by Bruno Coulais
Cinematography Eric Guichard
Edited by Jacques Comets
Distributed by HBO Films
Release date
  • February 17, 2005 (2005-02-17)
Running time
140 min.
Country Rwanda
France
United States
Language English
Kinyarwanda

Sometimes in April is a 2005 historical drama television film about the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, written and directed by the Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. The ensemble cast includes Idris Elba, Oris Erhuero, Carole Karemera, and Debra Winger.

Plot[edit]

The story revolves around Augustin Muganza, a Hutu who struggles to find closure after bearing witness to the killing of close to a million people in 100 days while becoming divided by politics and losing some of their own family. The plot intersperses between the genocide in 1994, and April 2004, when Augustin is invited by his brother, Honoré Butera, to visit him as he stands trial for his involvement in the genocide.

The film depicts the attitudes and circumstances leading up to the outbreak of brutal violence, the intertwining stories of people struggling to survive the genocide, and the aftermath as the people try to find justice and reconciliation. The plot is also intercut with scenes of Prudence Bushnell, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs for American President Bill Clinton, and her futile attempts to stop the genocide and advice the American government and public to acknowledge the genocide as it unfolds.

1994[edit]

Augustin, a captain in the Rwandan Armed Forces, lives in Kigali with his wife Jeanne, a Tutsi hospital worker with whom they have two sons, Yves-André and Marcus, and a daughter, Anne-Marie, who is staying in an all-girls Catholic boarding school 150 kilometres from Kigali. Despite constant political disagreement, he remains in close contact with Honoré, a pro-Hutu Power radio personality working for Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). Augustin is also friends with Xavier Miango, a fellow Hutu officer and fiancé to Felicie, a Tutsi.

By April 1994, the power-sharing agreement between the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government and Paul Kagame's Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) is breaking down as President Juvénal Habyarimana is viewed by Hutus to be conceding too far in favor of the Tutsis. Augustin and Xavier gradually come to the distressing realization that the military is preparing for targeted killings of Tutsis and moderate Hutus on the behest of Hutu extremists in the government, but Augustin insists on taking the position of a moderate and remaining in the country to Jeanne's disapproval, despite history of anti-Tutsi violence by hardline Hutus earlier in the Rwandan Civil War and warnings from Honoré that violent action from Hutu extremists may recur. On the night of April 6, Habyarimana is killed when his plane is shot down, reigniting the civil war and signaling the start of mass killings of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by génocidaires consisting of pro-Hutu government soldiers and militiamen backed by Hutu civilians indoctrinated by Hutu Power propaganda; Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana is later depicted to be assassinated by government soldiers the following morning. Xavier and Felicie seek refuge at Augustin's house in response to the outbreak of violence.

Fearing the safety of his family, Augustin calls on Honoré to use his influence in the community to drive his family and Felicie to the Hôtel des Mille Collines, which is harboring refugees, while confident that Anne-Marie is out of harm's way. As Augustin learns from Honoré that he is documented as a Tutsi sympathizer by the government, he elects to stay at home alongside Xavier until it is safe to head to the hotel. On route, Honoré manages to slip his passengers through génocidaire roadblocks, but is stopped at an unexpected military checkpoint, where the group is detained and a scuffle ensues.

After a few days of hiding, Augustin and Xavier escape from Augustin's home and attempt to trail a UNAMIR convoy evacuating expatriates, but are separated from the convoy at a militia roadblock when the officer in charge of the convoy refuses to help. Augustin's life is spared but Xavier is executed as he has been branded a traitor on the radio. Augustin eventually reaches the hotel but is unable to locate his family, and remains there for the rest of the genocide. Meanwhile, Jeanne awakens without her sons at the Sainte-Famille Church over a week after the altercation at the checkpoint, unable to recalls events from that day. Felicie is later revealed to be lined up for execution by the church building.

Génocidaires eventually breach the school Anne-Marie resides at to screen for Tutsi elements. Martine, a teacher at the school, shelters a group of students, including Anne-Marie, in a dormitory. The students rally behind Martine in solidarity as Martine refuses to divide them into Hutus and Tutsis, only for the group to be indiscriminately slaughtered by gunfire from government soldiers. Martine and Victorine, a fellow student, survive and find Anne-Marie alive but mortally wounded; Anne-Marie dies later. The two soon find safety among the thick vegetation of the Kayumba swamps, where they are rescued by advancing RPF soldiers.

Towards late-July, the RPF has scored massive territorial gains as members of the Hutu political and military elite and Hutu civilians flee the country out of fear of reprisal from the RPF, ending the civil war and the genocide. Augustin seeks out Anne-Marie at her school, only to find Martine and another woman tending to bodies in the dormitory where the massacre occurred. He griefs when Martine confirms that Anne-Marie is dead.

2004[edit]

Haunted by the events in 1994 and resigning to never learn of what had become of Jeanne and his sons, Augustin finds work as a school teacher and lives unmarried with Martine, who remains traumatized by her experience at her old school. Around the tenth anniversary of the start of the genocide, Augustin receives a letter from Honoré expressing interest to discuss in person the fates of Jeanne and his first sons. Honoré has been detained in Arusha, Tanzania, where he is tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for his role at RTLM, after being on the run until his arrest in Italy in 1997.

On Martine's insistence, Augustin reluctantly flies to Tanzania to attend the trail hearings as a visitor, dithering to meet Honoré. Furious to learn that those charged for inciting the genocide live in relative luxury with ample medication and meals while his countrymen still struggle to survive, Augustin begins to question the point of his visit. His stance softens when he befriends Valentine, another genocide survivor. She invites him to listen to her testify in court as an anonymous witness, where he hears of the constant rape she endured in the hands of Interahamwe militiamen. Valentine is revealed to be mothering two sons.

Inspired by Valentine's courage to testify, Augustin is motivated to meet Honoré. At the meeting, Honoré recounts the events that unfolded at the checkpoint to the hotel in 1994: The soldiers were ordered to kill Jeanne, Yves-André and Marcus due to their Tutsi lineage. Augustin's sons were promptly shot dead, but in their excitement, the soldiers presumed Jeanne was also dead despite only being knocked unconscious by a rifle butt. Honoré hid Jeanne in a ditch, before carrying her to the safety of the church at night. For objecting to the kill order, Honoré was listed as a traitor and lost his privilege for safety, forcing him into exile and being unable to aid Jeanne any further. Honoré would later learn that while Jeanne was initially safe and pleaded to join Augustin at the hotel, she was raped by soldiers after the military began to probe the church for Tutsis. With the imminent threat of being killed, Jeanne sacrificed herself with a grenade to save a few rape victims and inflict injury on her aggressors.

Reflecting on Honoré's revelation, Augustin finally finds peace and returns to Rwanda to raise his new family with Martine, who is now expecting a son. The film closes with Martine laying flowers at the remains of the school dormitory before attending a nearby Gacaca court to recount her experiences in the genocide.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Although this film originally aired on HBO, it was later broadcast by PBS and followed with a panel discussion by journalist Jeff Greenfield. Paul Bonerwitz is one of the speakers.

In contrast to Hotel Rwanda, which was rated PG-13 and had most of the genocide violence subtly implied rather than explicitly shown, this film was noted for its more gruesome and graphic portrayal of the violence, which gave it a TV-MA rating.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]