Search - Ghosts of Rwanda on DVD

Ghosts of Rwanda
Ghosts of Rwanda
Actor: Will Lyman
Director: Greg Barker
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
UR     2004     2hr 0min


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Movie Details

Actor: Will Lyman
Director: Greg Barker
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 06/29/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 0min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Gruesome, but Necessary Film
Paul Schmitt | Bethesda, MD USA | 01/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Despite what many in our culture have identified as a gradual desensitization to violence, this documentary reminds us that all too many are simply not willing to look violence and its causes sqaurely in the face. Barker's documentary is a methodical, sober, and reflective look at the genocide in Rwanda that occurred only ten years ago, on the watch of a man who so many (the reviewer included) considered a breath of fresh air. In 1992, Bill Clinton was seen as an energetic young President who would realign America's foreign policy around the human rights principles of Jimmy Carter. Barker rightly identifies the moral failure of Clinton and his administration in their turning away from the ongoing massacre in Rwanda, when there was clear information that the Hutu extremists had planned to exterminate the minority Tutsis, and specifically Tutsi children.

The film cleverly allows the principle figures to tell their own stories, thus leaving viewers to make their own judgments. By juxtaposing the retelling of the horrors by survivors (including a young girl who lived for six weeks in a church filled with hundreds of corpses) with the self-absolving excuses of those such as Kofi Annan and Madeleine Albright, Barker effectively reveals the unwillingness and incompetence of those in the West who had the ability to step in and stop the killing - perhaps not at first, but certainly as the atrocities became known both through the BBC and the Red Cross. Other than the survivors, the most compelling testimony comes from three westerners - Canadian UN general Romeo Dallaire, Red Cross worker Phillipe Gaillard, and American missionary Carl Wilkens. Dallaire's testimony is the clear centerpiece of the film, and he has received the most publicity due to his role as commanding general of the peacekeeping forces. Dallaire, in his opening scene, talks about the fear in the eyes of those who experienced the terror and pled for help, but is in his eyes that we can see the full burden and weight of Rwanda. Gaillard, however, is even more effective, in his understated sense of outrage about the lack of intervention at the highest levels of the U.N. In him we see a man who saw the full horrors of the genocide, yet has a basic compassion for the burden and guilt that Dallaire bears on a daily basis. I am not taken to crying or even tearing up when watching films or documentaries, but Gaillard's testimony is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, and when he tells the viewer that he is OK after all these years, one knows he is both understating his pain and contextualizing it within the much greater (and unimaginable) pain of the 800,000 Rwandans who were murdered, and the grief of their families.

If the film has a weakness (and indeed, this review reproduces the problem) it is that, in rightfully assigning blame for the genocide at the West's doorstep, it lingers too extensively on the reactions of Westerners and does not sufficiently engage with the stories of the Rwandans themselves. We have the account of the young girl who survives the massacre at the church, and there is an excellent portrayal of the Senegalese UN officer Mbaye, who saved hundreds of lives. I would have liked to have heard from Paul Rusesabagina, who has recently been lionized in Terry George's film, Hotel Rwanda. The journalist Phillip Gourevitch was able to talk to several survivors, and it seems that Barker could have done more in this respect.

This is an emotional and powerful film. It works by gradually drawing the viewer into the true horror of the genocide. The killings, confined to Kigali in its initial days, slowly spread to the outer provinces, and in the film's second hour, the viewer is assaulted with the results of the Hutu's murderous project in all of its grisly details. Shots of rotting flesh, neglected corpses, putrefied wounds, severed limbs, dying children, and blood-filled rivers are numerous. I would say that this is not a film for the feint of heart, but to turn away from the reality of what happened is quite simply moral cowardice. Every American should be encouraged to watch this film once they reach an age where they can properly assess the graphic images and process them in the proper ethical context. And there is an important mesage which, in these days of the Iraq war, is increasingly poignant: that military power, when properly deployed, can prevent true evil. As Americans, we need not shrink from this exercise of military power provided we understand its implications and its responsibilities, a lesson for which too many administrations have not displayed consistent appreciation."
Rwanda 1994: 8,000 people killed each day for 100 days
Michael Brumitt | Indianapolis, IN United States | 12/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Wars are usually not fought to save people's lives; they are fought for economic reasons, to maintain or expand markets around the world. There is no immediate profit from spreading peace, justice, or equality. As any member of the Bush administration will tell you, war is good for business.
In 1994, no one considered Rwanda to be worth getting involved in, and now Europe and America must look back with regret at a situation that escalated into something no one would admit was happening: full-blown genocide. It was not until months and even years later that politicians and journalists realized the magnitude of what had happened after traveling to Rwanda to see the decomposing corpses lying in yards, on church floors, and inside homes.
This documentary is an excellent, sobering, and intense look at what happened in Rwanda during 1994 when the world refused to get involved in a senseless civil war that took the lives of 800,000 men, women, and children over the span of a few months. As in many tragedies, heroic figures emerged to risk themselves for the good of others. The movie includes the stories of Carl Wilkens, an American church worker who stayed behind after every single American had fled; Philippe Gaillard, a Red Cross worker; and Captain Mbaye Diagne, a UN solider who went beyond the call of duty to help save as many as he could.
Hopefully, this film will help people learn about a time many are unaware of and emphasize the importance of thinking globally, not provincially. In short, this DVD is highly recommended."
A Rwandan Genocide Film for Every Adult to See
Ben J Korgen | 11/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary is unexcelled in depicting the horrifying magnitude and ruthlessness of the Rwandan genocide. It also correctly lays the blame for letting it continue on flawed UN mandates and on the failure of leaders in wealthy countries to stop it by pitting modern military hardware against crazed people swinging machetes.

Some viewers in awe of what this documentary does reveal might be disappointed that the film drops opportunities to make better connections beyond Rwanda. It could have pointed out that DNA evidence suggest all of us are more like each other than we would like to admit. This means great masses of humans are capable of doing exactly what we see being done in this film or what was done to Jews in World War II.

It also could have pointed out more specifically what prevents the best people at the UN from doing what it was formed to do, namely preventing war and other forms of mass killing."