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There are not one but two compelling human interest stories on display in Sweet Dreams, the new documentary by the sibling filmmaking team of Lisa Fruchtman and Rob Fruchtman. Both involve the indomitable Rwandan woman Kiki Katese, who, ten years after the horrendous 1994 genocide, founded the country’s first all-female drumming troupe. Several years later, she embarked on another seemingly quixotic venture, to open Rwanda’s first ice cream shop.
The drumming troupe, Ingoma Nshya, is composed of both Tutsis and Hutus. Its members, like so many of the country’s inhabitants, are still traumatized by the brutality they either witnessed or experienced first-hand. Their athletic pounding of their congas, as illustrated in numerous performance segments, can be seen as a cathartic expression of the joy that’s still possible to be found amid the harshest of circumstances.
But that achievement wasn’t enough for Tatese, who decided that the troupe needed to be cooperatively involved in their own business. While an ice cream parlor seems an incongruous notion, she nonetheless devised a plan for its inception, enlisting aid and advice from two American women proprietors of the Brooklyn-based Blue Marble ice cream shop.
The film chronicles the enterprise’s ensuing difficulties, including the raising of the necessary capital; the African women having to learn both English and the ways of capitalism; and the complicated procurement of an ice cream machine from South Africa that was severely damaged in transit. Manned by select members of the drum troupe, the shop, whose name provides the film its title, did eventually open. But even then things didn’t always proceed smoothly, as one employee is fired for “a bad work attitude and petty theft.”
Despite these and other inevitable glitches, the story ends happily. Sweet Dreams delivers a rare uplifting story from a country that has seen more than its share of brutality and heartache.
Opens Nov. 1 (International Film Circuit)
Production: Liro Films
Directors/producers/editors: Lisa Fruchtman, Rob Fruchtman
Executive producers: Russell Long, Tiffany Schauer
Directors of photography: Rob Fruchtman, Lex Fletcher
Not rated, 89 min.
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