Film Commentary 06: Kinyarwanda

The film “Kinyarwanda” provides its viewers with a unique manifestation of the Rwandan Genocide in April 1994. In this historical terror, the Hutus began the slaughtering of the Tutsis in Rwanda, as the world stood by, leaving a rough estimate of 800,000 Hutus and Tutsis murdered. In Rwandan history, the Tutsi and the Hutu share a common past. Soon after, there became a distinction where Tutsi are those who owned cattle, and the rest were the Hutus. Once the Europeans came, it was in the colonization where more distinction came between the Tutsi and the Hutu since the germans perceived the Tutsi to have more European characteristics. Hence, giving them higher roles in society. This distinction intensified more when Belgians took control, giving the Tutsis the leadership roles. When struggle broke in Belgium, roles between the Hutus and the Tutsis switched with the Belgians granting the former the control of the administration. Now, this upsets the Tutsis in turn. From this rough history of role changes and class distinction, there is a clear cut case of progressing conflict between the two groups of Rwandan people.

The spark of the actual genocide exhibits the concept of political repression that occurred between the Tutsis and the Hutus, given that both were in an environment of struggle, with each one trying to be the one in control. It can be seen how both were, for political reasons, acting on the purpose of restricting or preventing the other’s ability to take part in the political life of the society. As one can recall, initially the Tutsis were given the higher roles, and later on the Hutus were given the position to control. Now, in history, the Hutu president Habyarimana had total control of Rwandan, excluding all Tutsis. But, in 1993, with the Arusha Accords, Tutsis were able to claim and take part in the government, as well. This sparked anger on the part of Hutu extremists. When the president died in an assassination through a plane crash, Hutu extremists took control of the government, and set the norm that it was the Tutsis fault in which the president had been killed. Hence, establishing the order for the slaughter of Tutsis. In this case, given that it was the Hutu extremists taking control of the government, it was a state sponsored political repression against the Tutsis. The Hutus wanted that Tutsis would no way touch the government, or get in any close contact in their class warfare. As a result, their solution was to take them out all of position, and even order the killings. Basically, it was as if the new norm was that if you were a Tutsi, you don’t just get to be isolated from participating in society, you are ordered to be eliminated. Not only that, Tutsis, on their part, also had stints of yearning to oppress the Hutus. When they were in position, and suddenly they were taken out when the Belgians switched the roles in society, it can be perceived in history how the Tutsis were angered by the fact that Hutus now controlled the government.

Relating to these ideas is also the concept of enlightenment, and how it leads to genocide. Horkheimer and Adorno (1973) argued how enlightenment in the form of emancipation and rationality can result in men yearning for control, and as a result, also want to control people, as well. In the history of the feud between the Tutsis and the Hutus, it can be seen how each one was enlightened of the roles inflicted by the European colonizers. On a rational note, this showed how one was compromised and was placed in a disposition lower and more vulnerable than the other. In other words, there were those above and there were those below. By being enlightened and taking a rational stand, the one in the lower bracket was angered, and created feud against those above. With the switching of roles in society in the year 1993, the rationality of both the Tutsis and the Hutus brought in the flames that intensified the power struggle between the two. The death of the president was just an opportunity which brought leverage for the Hutu extremists to gain control of government, and of course its resources, in order to initiate that state-sponsored killings against the Tutsis. A very important phase that could be highlighted from the film is how even religion was not an exemption to change the minds of those initiating killings. In the film, the catholic priest, taken on a role by Mazimpaka Kennedy, was shown to even lead the Hutu soldiers to slaughter the people. He orchestrated the opportunity to kill. It is in this case that shows how Bauman’s (1989) concept of the modern medicine to cure society is seen, that even a priest, a catholic one, is not exempted from the idea that the way to cleanse society is through the elimination of Hutus. As a whole, it appears to be a creative disaster how even the norm of the “dirtiness” of an identified “cockroach” of society surpasses the concepts of religion. The norm was seen to be a lot stronger that even members of the catholic church had set aside what the religion upholds in order to comply or coincide with the established struggle in society. For the priest, Bauman’s modern medicine appeared in the form of Hutus “cleansing” the society through their mass murder operations, rather than Christianity’s predetermined values and morals.

Moving away from the concepts of violence, the story’s exhibition of a love story between a young Tutsi lady, and a Hutu man, illustrates the other side of the established norms in Rwanda. I believe that there was a need for this aspect of the story line in the film documentary to be present, so as to show how the existing conflict and feud between Hutus and Tutsis was grounded on the issue on power and repression, rather than mere feeling of emotional anger. It shows how love goes beyond the situation of class struggles, as their love existed despite the occurrence of the Rwandan genocide.

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