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Forgiveness on film

"Forgiveness on film" Continued...

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

Chantale leaves, unable to forgive that day. The ongoing struggle to do so is at the heart of the film, which looks unflinchingly at human relationships strained to the utmost: of churches, complicit in the genocide, spearheading the road to recovery; of killers released from the bars of jail to meet the barriers of survivors' contempt; of the depth of feeling that allows some Rwandans to feel they must forgive, and others to feel they cannot.

Reactions to the project have been mixed. Rwandans are enthusiastic, excited at the prospect of the world hearing stories that go beyond Hotel Rwanda. President Paul Kagame even granted Hinson an interview and fed her film crew lunch off of gold-rimmed presidential china. Others are wary. Actress Mia Farrow, who lent her voice to narrate the film, expressed concerns, not uncommon, about placing too great a burden on survivors to forgive the perpetrators of genocide.

Even after the hundreds of hours she's spent producing the film, Hinson hasn't found an answer to what she'd do in Rosaria's or Chantale's place. She can't conceive what she'd do if her husband was murdered and the government set the killer free. Could she forgive? Hard to say. But the survivors are being asked to do even more than forgive. They're being asked to reconcile. "Forgiveness asks you to give up your right to be angry," says Hinson. "Reconciliation asks something much greater. It asks you to enter back into relationship with the people you've forgiven. That's what the Rwandans are doing, and it's astonishing."

-Alyson Thoner is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. For information on screenings of As We Forgive, visit asweforgivethose.com.

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