Search - Munyurangabo on DVD

Actors: Jeff Rutagengwa (as Munyurangabo), Eric Dorunkundiye (as Sangwa), Edouard B Uwayo (as the Poet)
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2009     1hr 37min

After stealing a machete from a market in Kigali, Munyurangabo and his friend, Sangwa, leave the city on a journey tied to their pasts. Munyurangabo wants justice for his parents who were killed in the genocide, and Sangwa...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jeff Rutagengwa (as Munyurangabo), Eric Dorunkundiye (as Sangwa), Edouard B Uwayo (as the Poet)
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Film Movement
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/06/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 37min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Simple and direct story about two young Rwandans, and of the
Nathan Andersen | Florida | 11/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Two young Rwandan friends go on an odyssey, to their places of birth and in search of some kind of solace in a land still torn by the aftermath of genocide. Munyurangabo seeks to avenge his dead father, who was killed during the genocide. Sangwa hopes to reconcile with his family along the way, a family he'd abandoned because of his father's drunkenness. Their visit to Sangwa's family ends up taking longer than expected, and threatens to tear apart their friendship, since Sangwa's father, a Hutu, can't overlook the fact that Ngabo is a Tutsi. There are hints, even, that Sangwa's father participated in the genocide and that Ngabo's visit has revived the sense of guilt and anger that may have been what motivated his drunkenness.

It is a sad and touching story, that holds out hope for reconciliation without overlooking the depth of the tensions and difficulties that would need to be overcome. It is told very simply and with a great deal of authenticity, shot documentary style and portraying both the beauty of the Rwandan countryside and the difficulty of life there: the plight and promise of Africa. The director, Lee Isaac Chung, collaborated with Rwandan youth in developing the story, and the dialogue is improvised while many of the scenarios are drawn from real life experiences. Highly recommended.

The video transfer on this disk looks great, and preserves much of the delicate tones of the original image (which was shot in 16mm film and blown up to a 35mm print) in its original 16:9 ratio. (I should say, though, that if you get a chance to see it in the theater on film you really should, since there is a significant loss in impact on the small screen - I was lucky enough to see it both ways).

The disk includes a trailer for the film, and a statement from the director, and also includes a clever and amusing short film called "Alptraum," about a man living alone high up in the Swiss Alps whose reception goes bad at the crucial moment during the Swiss soccer team's critical match in the European finals."
Intimate and deeply moving
Howard Schumann | Vancouver, B.C. | 11/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When viewing the primal landscape of the beautiful country of Rwanda, it is hard to imagine that only a short time ago the land was awash with the blood of 800,000 people. No film more fully captures the residual pain resulting from the 1994 genocide than Munyurangabo, an intimate and deeply moving first feature from American director Lee Isaac Chung, the first film ever made in the Kinyarwanda language. Shot in only 11 days using local actors who were orphans of the genocide, Munyurangabo centers on the friendship between two teenage boys, Sangwa (Eric Dorunkundiye) a Hutu and Ngabo (Jeff Rutagengwa) a Tutsi named after the great ancient Rwandan warrior Munyurangabo, subtly weaving the story of their relationship with a plea for reconciliation in Rwanda.

Chung, a 28-year-old Korean-American also shot, edited, and co-wrote the film with Samuel Gray Anderson, though much of the dialogue is improvised. The film opens with two close friends walking down a rural road with their arms around each other, ostensibly on a journey to visit Sangwa's parents whom he has not seen in three years. It is only later that we discover the real purpose of the trip, but we have some idea from the stolen machete that Ngabo is carrying. Telling them that he is on the road looking for work, the boys visit Sangwa's parents in their rural village and it is a loving reunion, especially with Sangwa's mother (Narcicia Nyirabucyeye) but there is conflict with his father (Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka), a recovered alcoholic, who becomes angry about his son's desertion of the family.

The family is poor and there is little food but they accept their circumstances without complaint, drawing water from a hillside stream, manually tilling the soil, and living in a house made of mud bricks. The visit becomes even more strained when Sangwa's father complains about his son's friendship with Ngabo who is a Tutsi. Ngabo acts more as an observer than a participant and spends most of his time with Gwiza (Jean Pierre Harerimana) an old friend of Sangwa who tells fanciful stories. His feeling of isolation becomes exacerbated when Sangwa's father, after Gwiza becomes sick, tells Ngabo that he has brought nothing but trouble to their house.

Feeling guilt and shame, Sangwa works in the fields and helps repair a brick wall on their home which is in danger of collapse to get back in his family's good graces, but it is not to be. The short visit becomes an extended stay but the boys cannot escape the terrible memories of the ethnic discord of the past. Their friendship is torn apart when Sangwa decides to remain at home and not follow Ngabo on his now revealed mission to enact revenge on the man who killed his father, and their breakup is described by Film Comment's Robin Wood as, "among the most moving in my experience of cinema". In a scene of overwhelming pathos, Sangwa's father learns of their plans and banishes his son from his house forever.

One of the most powerful scenes is when Ngabo, now alone on his mission, encounters Rwandan poet Edouard B. Uwayo at a roadside café when he enters the town to find the man who killed his father. Uwayo reads his poem "Liberation is a Journey", a passionate lament for his country's troubled past and an expression of hope for a new Rwanda free of ethnic conflict and with equality for all. His poem leads Ngabo to question his vengeful aims, though he still harbors hatred for his father's killer and decries the fact that he can no longer remember his father's face because his mother, who died shortly afterwards, destroyed all of his photographs.

Munyurangabo has a strong point of view but, under Chung's sure direction, it is a deeply human odyssey that never becomes preachy or didactic. Like Sin Nombre, a film about Mexican immigrants directed by another young American, Cary Fukanaga, Munyurangabo always feels authentic, moving seamlessly from a story of estrangement to one of spiritual redemption and ending in a fevered dream. It is a remarkable achievement that deserves to be widely seen.