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Peter T Chattaway

Munyurangabo

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Links to similar Rwanda-genocide-themed films: Hotel Rwanda (2004); Shooting Dogs / Beyond the Gates (2005), Shake Hands with the Devil (2007); we don't seem to have a thread for the Quebecois film Un dimance a Kigali / A Sunday in Kigali (2006).

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Munyurangabo
Like a bolt out of the blue, Korean American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung achieves an astonishing and thoroughly masterful debut with "Munyurangabo," which is -- by several light years -- the finest and truest film yet on the moral and emotional repercussions of the 15-year-old genocide that wracked Rwanda. Pic's supremely confident, simple storytelling and relaxed, slightly impressionist visual style follow a conflict that emerges between two friends as one makes a long-delayed homecoming. This is -- flat out -- the discovery of this year's Un Certain Regard batch, and deserves loving care from arthouse distribs after a liberating and fruitful fest tour. . . .
The sheer confidence and artistic will that 28-year-old Chung exercises here can't be overstated, especially in contrast to the few short films of little or no note he made during his brief stint as a Yale film student, and the fact that he wasn't even planning to make a feature while teaching at a Christian relief camp in Rwanda. . . .
Robert Koehler, Variety, May 25


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Vision of post-genocide Rwanda lands U. alum at Cannes

Chung shot the film in 11 days last summer, when he traveled to Kigali, Rwanda with former U. classmate Jenny Lund and screenwriter Samuel Anderson to teach a course in filmmaking and photography at Youth With A Mission (YWAM), a non-denominational Christian relief base. The 15 students served as the film's crew. . . .

"Munyurangabo" is the first feature-length narrative made in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda's primary language, which Chung doesn't speak. He relied on a translator to communicate with the two street kids he cast as his stars, both of whom he found through YWAM's soccer-outreach program. . . .

Chung, Lund and Anderson's production company, Almond Tree Films, will return to Kigali next summer to encourage Rwanda's native population to learn filmmaking. They also plan to donate the film's proceeds to Rwanda, Lund said: "After we cover costs, it's going to be donated to YWAM and various other organizations for scholarships and development."

Salt Lake Tribune, May 26


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Rwanda, Speaking in Its Own Voice

IT is safe to say that when most American filmmakers think about the global reach of their movies, they are not considering the concept in quite the same way as Lee Isaac Chung, whose first feature,


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Popping in quickly to promote a film I really love. Munyurangabo was one of the best films I saw in 2007 and was far-and-away my favorite debut of the year. If all goes as planned, my interview with Isaac Chung will be in the June issue of Sojourners. I'd love for A&F'ers to add this one to your to-watch lists.

Edited by Darren H

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I havne't heard anything about Munyurangabo, but this made me think about a friend of mine named Laura Waters Hinson who directed a doc about the reconciliation efforts entitled "As We Forgive" for her filmschool thesis. I haven't seen the full film, but the trailer for it looks excellent. She also just found out that the film has won a Student Academy Award, putting her in the same boat with some nice company like Spike Lee.

You can check out the trailer at the official website www.asweforgivemovie.com.

Don't want to derail the topic, but just thought it was noteworthy given Munyurangabo's material and her recent AA win...


"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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Ahem.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Darren's just blogged about it here.

And that leads to his in-depth article about the film, which includes a conversation with the filmmaker, has just been published in Sojourners, and you can read the whole thing here (with free registration). There, he summarizes the film as “a poetic and beautifully humane snapshot of Rwanda as it exists today, nearly a decade and a half after the genocide.”

I gotta see this.

And I should note that this is the first time I've ever read an article about a film of international significance that makes a prominent mention of YWAM.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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This is the most beautiful thing I've seen this year so far. I'm inspired. I'm going to write a piece on this and Shotgun Stories. Saw them within a week of each other, and they feel like they were made as entries for a theme-driven festival on "Divided Houses and Hope."

I echo Darren. A&F... if the opportunity presents itself, check this one out.

And Darren, thanks for dropping by to recommend it.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Alas, it appears that 2008 is closing up without Munyurangabo -- one of my three favorite films of the year -- finding distribution.

So I won't be including it on my Best of 2008 list. Hopefully it'll be distributed soon. If anybody hears anything about this movie becoming available on DVD, please let me know.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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This film will be screened at the City of the Angels Film Festival at the end of the month!

If you get a chance to attend that festival, don't miss it!!


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The first of five pieces I'm writing on Munyurangabo went up at Filmwell today. This one is actually an essay written by Lee Isaac Chung himself.

UPDATE:

Here are Part One and Part Two of my interview with Lee Isaac Chung.

UPDATE 2:

Here's the piece I wrote for Image.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Watched it tonight. (The DVD finally came available to the public this week.) It's an extremely powerful movie, though I was a little disappointed with the storytelling shifts in the third act; the film had proceeded so organically up to that point that it felt kind of rushed at the end. Considering how it was made, though, maybe that's just what they had to do to finish it on time.

A few details about the ending confused me a little, though:

Is the man Ngabo sees in the shack at the end the man who killed his father? For some reason, I got the impression the man might be his father

. And

When does the final shot (with Ngabo and Sangwa together again, I thought) take place? Is it a flashback or -forward?

(EDIT) I just read the Filmwell interview with Chung, which helped clear up these questions.

Edited by tyler1984

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I really liked the touch of magical realism at the end: it bends the rules of the world in a way that is surreal and somewhat fantastic but emotionally on point. I'm guessing that's one of the 'shifts' you were pointing out. The transition to that last shot is pretty sudden; but then, magical realism often has that quality in literary form, too, I think.


Everything that matters is invisible.

-- Robert Bresson

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I really liked the touch of magical realism at the end: it bends the rules of the world in a way that is surreal and somewhat fantastic but emotionally on point. I'm guessing that's one of the 'shifts' you were pointing out. The transition to that last shot is pretty sudden; but then, magical realism often has that quality in literary form, too, I think.

There was that, but what bugged me more was how in the first two acts, almost everything is revealed through dialogue and action, but in the third act, so much comes through voiceover and exposition; I understand how that was necessary to meta the narrative, but it still felt rushed to me.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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I had a chance to see this film using the "Watch Instantly" feature on Netflix. I though the film was very well done, with a quiet dignity for its characters in the film's comtemplative pace. It reminded me of the films of Ousmane Sembene in its depiction of African familly life. The film doesn't offer easy answers, but like the journey undertaken by the characters in the film, reconciliation is a journey that is always on-going. The poem was powerful, and using it in the narrative showed the power of words.

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Coming to the VanCity Theatre November 27-30. I haven't had a chance to watch the DVD yet, and given how tricky it can be to watch subtitled films at home, I might try to see it on the big screen here instead. We'll see.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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At last, two and a half years after launching this thread, I finally got a chance to see this film ... and even under less-than-ideal conditions (watching it on my laptop rather than in a theatre, etc.), I loved it.

I have said before that I would be proud to have a film like Facing the Giants on my resume if only because it was remarkably accomplished, technically speaking, for a film made almost entirely by volunteers and amateurs. But wow, I'd be even prouder to have Munyurangabo on my resume: It's hard to believe that this is Chung's first feature-length film, or that he shot it kind-of, sort-of on the fly, with relief-camp students as his film crew. But what makes it soar is the form and content, beyond simply the fact that it is as technically proficient as it is.

I feel like I should see it a second time and/or do more reading before commenting much more. But I loved the mix of shooting styles, the mix of "realistic" drama (oh, the way that that one kid cries -- are these really non-actors?) and break-the-fourth-wall techniques (like when the poet addresses the camera directly for something like five or ten minutes), and some of the ironic plot twists that came up. It works as drama, it works as pure cinema, it works as political and/or spiritual statement, it works as fiction, it works as documentary (since the film is so firmly grounded in Rwandan life) ... it actually works so well that I'm kind of worried for the director. Y'know, that whole "sophomore slump" thing, the question of whether any thing resembling all these elements might come together on his next film.

But anyhoo. A keeper, for sure.

And if one scene stands out in my mind right now, it's the hoeing. (At least, I think that's what they're doing.) On one level, it's supposed to be a sign of growing reconciliation, family togetherness, the son learning from his dad, etc. But the way that kid attacks the ground ... and knowing about the vengeful nature of the journey that he and his friend are on ... well, it takes on a much more menacing implication. Very, very well done.

And that's just one of the layered ironies that this movie has.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It works as drama, it works as pure cinema, it works as political and/or spiritual statement, it works as fiction, it works as documentary (since the film is so firmly grounded in Rwandan life) ... it actually works so well that I'm kind of worried for the director. Y'know, that whole "sophomore slump" thing, the question of whether any thing resembling all these elements might come together on his next film.

Likewise. The film has such a feel of natural talent filtered through years of technical experience, script development, etc... that it is stunning to hear Chung talk about it as his first feature shot almost on a whim. Artists always say that it takes a long time to make something that seems so effortless.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Interesting that you would zero in on the hoeing scene. It's a very personal one for the director, as he grew up on a farm. He talks about that in the two-part interview at Filmwell.

Personally, I love the scenes of repairing (or tearing down) the wall. That is also a scene about hard work that is loaded with implications.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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One of the films that will be seen at Whitehead Film Festival in January


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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