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Genocide film debuts at Rwanda stadium

Edward Rwema Associated Press

KIGALI, Rwanda – “Sometimes in April,” a movie on the 1994 Rwanda genocide, premiered Saturday at a stadium that was one of the scenes of slaughter more than a decade ago.

It was filmed mostly in Rwanda, where Hutu extremist militias and soldiers killed more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus between April and July 1994.

More than 5,000 people – including government officials, actors, journalists and genocide survivors – attended Saturday’s screening at Kigali’s Amahoro stadium, where thousands of Tutsis were killed during the slaughter. Today, the movie will be shown to the general public for free at the 25,000-capacity venue.

“Sometimes in April” tells the story of a Hutu soldier who gets separated from his family – including his Tutsi wife – as he tries to take them to safety with the help of a fellow Hutu soldier.

“The film … demonstrates the human capacity of cruelty, while illuminating the human capacity for courage,” said Raoul Peck, the movie’s Haitian-born writer and director.

Peck spent 18 months researching material for the film in Rwanda and Tanzania, where masterminds of the genocide are still on trial at a U.N. tribunal. The film stars Oris Erhuero and Debra Winger.

Peck said he wanted the film to premiere here as a way of thanking the Rwandans – many of them survivors of the genocide – who helped make it. They acted and were members of the film’s production crew.

“This is a major moment for me,” Peck told journalists Friday. “It goes beyond my own personal emotions to have this film screened in Rwanda. It is so important that Rwandans are going to legitimize it.”

The film will be broadcast in the United States on Home Box Office on March 19.

“We have fulfilled the pledge we made to Rwandans of showing them the film before anyone else,” Sam Martin, HBO’s director of development and production, told the Associated Press. “The story in the film is one of international importance, and it’s a great opportunity to retell the world of this atrocity.”

While filming, Peck had a team of psychologists on set to help survivors deal with any trauma that may have been triggered by graphic reminders of their past.

He said he expects the film will also bring back painful memories to the Rwandans who see the film Saturday and today. “The film is very moving and hard,” Peck said. “But this is the reality, we have to confront it.”

“Sometimes in April” is one of 21 films competing for the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival next month.

Its release follows that of “Hotel Rwanda,” another film on the genocide, whose star Don Cheadle has been tipped for an Oscar nomination Tuesday for best actor.

The killing was orchestrated by the Hutu-extremist government then in power. Government troops, Hutu militia and ordinary villagers spurred on by hate messages broadcast via radio went from village to village, butchering men, women and children.

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