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Almond Tree Films
CANNES — Leo Isaac Chung’s somber “Munyurangabo” is the tale of two young men in Rwanda whose friendship is at risk because one is Hutu and the other is Tutsi, warring tribes in the country’s genocidal conflict. Earnest and slow, the film takes time to reveal its intentions and the result is worthy but not engaging.
As the first film to be shot in the Kinyarwanda language, it will attract interest from festivals but its true value is in opening doors for the future. The Korean-American filmmaker developed the project in Rwanda after teaching a film course there. The use of non-professionals in cast and crew is evident in awkward staging and acting, leaving vital scenes bereft of emotion.
The story follows Sangwa (Eric Ndorunkundiye) and Ngabo (Jeff Rutagengwa) as they struggle to make ends meet in Kigali, the nation’s capital. They soon hit the road, however, and their destination appears to be Sangwa’s Hutu home, which he hasn’t visited in three years. But Ngabo, who has packed a machete for the trip, isn’t entirely happy with this.
At Sangwa’s home while his mother (Narcicia Nyirabucyeye) is pleased to see him, his father (Jean Marie Nkurikiyinka) berates him for abandoning his family. His dad is also upset to discover that Ngabo is Tutsi.
It becomes apparent that Ngabo’s reason for their journey is in order to kill the man who murdered his father. The two friends fall out over this and Ngabo rejects Sangwa, being determined to fulfill is mission although he discovers that fate has other plans.
A scene in which Rwandan poet Edouard B. Uwayo delivers directly to the camera an obviously sincere but drawn-out dissertation on Rwanda’s hopes and dreams further enervates the film’s tension.
Running time — 97 minutes
No MPAA rating
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